The Journal of Politics

ARTICLES

Partisan Discord in the Family and Political Engagement: A Comparative Behavioral Analysis

Jennifer Fitzgeralda1 and K. Amber Curtisa2

a1 University of Colorado at Boulder

a2 University of Colorado at Boulder

Abstract

What happens to a person’s level of political engagement when he is surrounded by partisan disagreement? Previous work offers a mixed picture; in certain circumstances political discord promotes engagement while in others it has the opposite effect. This analysis tests existing theories by looking at the implications of disagreement within the family. We leverage panel data to trace effects over time, and we examine this dynamic across political units. Household data from Britain, Germany, and Switzerland reveal that those whose parents are divided politically tend to become more, not less, engaged in politics. Comparatively, these effects appear stronger in some countries than in others, but the three-country analysis only suggests reasons why. Therefore, we take advantage of Swiss subnational political variation to further investigate the conditioning role of institutions. This step confirms that proportional representation elections moderate the relationship between parental disagreement and interest in politics.

Jennifer Fitzgerald is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309.

K. Amber Curtis is Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Political Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309.

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