Comparative European Politics vol:12 issue:2 pages:209-232
Two decades after democratic transition, political participation levels in Central and Eastern Europe remain significantly lower than in Western European countries. While some authors invoke the socialization of citizens under authoritarian regimes as a cause, others hint at the fact that these countries still experience corruption, lack of good governance and low levels of economic development. In this article we test both theoretical claims, by conducting a multilevel analysis on the full sample of the European Social Survey (2002-2008), introducing a distinction between institutionalized and non-institutionalized forms of participation. The analysis demonstrates that, controlling for all relevant individual level characteristics, an authoritarian legacy, the perception of corruption, bad governance and low income levels have a negative impact on participation levels. Controlling for corruption levels and lack of good governance, the effect of an authoritarian legacy is rendered non-significant. An analysis by age and cohort suggests that the effect of current experiences with corruption are more powerful than the effect of an authoritarian legacy. As such, our findings support the claim that especially bad governance and corruption have a strong negative impact on civic engagement in Central and Eastern Europe.