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In political science, political efficacy is the citizens' trust in their ability to change the government and belief that they can understand and influence political affairs. It is commonly measured by surveys and is used as an indicator for the broader health of civil society.
When citizens have low efficacy, they do not believe that their actions affect the government and the actions of their political leaders. When citizens have high efficacy, they believe that they have the ability to influence political leaders and affect the government. There are multiple ways in which citizens' political efficacy can be expressed: through the media, by having the right to protest, by being able to create petitions, and by having free and fair elections. The lack thereof results typically in violence and is a side effect of having low political efficacy, and therefore the feeling that a citizen is powerless in their own country.
Feelings of efficacy are highly correlated with participation in social and political life; however, studies have not shown any relationship between public confidence in government or political leaders and voting. Political efficacy was found to polarize policy preferences. People with relatively high efficacy were found to express policy preferences that are more in line with their ideological orientation and more extreme; and people with low efficacy tend to express more moderate policy preferences. These results were in both experimental and observational studies. Efficacy usually increases with age.
There are two types of political efficacy: internal efficacy (the belief that one can understand politics and therefore participate in politics) and external efficacy (that the government will respond to one's demands).
- Sulitzeanu-Kenan, r. & E. Halperin. 2013. Making a Difference: Political Efficacy and Policy Preference Construction. British Journal of Political Science 43(2): 295-322.
- Multiple Indicators in Survey Research: The Concept "Sense of Political Efficacy", George I. Balch, Political Methodology, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring 1974), pp. 1–43
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