Title: Assessing the Cross-Cultural Equivalence of Political Participation in the European Social Survey
Authors: Reeskens, Tim
Quintelier, Ellen
Billiet, Jaak #
Issue Date: Jan-2009
Conference: Methodological Challenges in Cross-National Participation Research location:The Hague date:16-17 January 2009
Abstract: In the literature, different dimensions of political participation have been distinguished. Over the last couple of decades, various authors have widened the number of dimensions, which, as a consequence, has led to widening the definition of political participation and vice versa. While in the early decades of quantitative political sociology, political participation was considered as being one-dimensional (Lane, 1959; Milbrath, 1965; Berelson, Lazarsfeld, & MacPhee, 1963), the concept has evolved to multi-dimensions – to give but one example, conventional and unconventional has been widely recognized as two distinct dimensions of political participation (Barnes & Kaase, 1979).
With the availability of comparative survey instruments that meet the highest criteria regarding reliability, like for instance the European Social Survey (ESS), authors have used the generally known set of political participation items to compare countries with regard to their overall levels on several dimensions (e.g. Newton & Montero, 2007). However, at the same time, scholars have warned for the possibility that composite
survey scales may lack cross-national equivalence (van Deth, 1998; Reeskens & Hooghe, 2008; Meuleman, Davidov, & Billiet, 2008) meaning that for instance (un-) conventional political participation may consist of different modes of activism across European countries. For this reason, the validity of cross-national research outcomes using composite scales is questioned. As far as we are aware of, the measurement equivalence of political participation across the ESS countries has not yet been tested.
Van Deth clearly mentions in his 2001 paper that it is necessary that we have to distinguish between different latent dimensions of political participation. Furthermore, he also questions whether these dimensions are equivalent in each country (van Deth, 2001:7). Therefore, this paper will first describe how political participation is defined in the literature. Furthermore, we will describe patterns of political participation across Europe and stress the importance of equivalent measures of political participation. Second, we will evaluate the presence of this type of cross-national measurement equivalence bias of political participation. By means of multiple group confirmatory factor analysis, it is possible to assess not only the magnitude of bias but also which deviances for which countries are responsible for a lack of comparison.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Centre for Political Research
Centre for Sociological Research
# (joint) last author

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