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Partisan discord in the family and political engagement: A comparative behavioral analysis

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2012
Author Fitzgerald Jennifer, Curtis Amber K,
Project SWISS HOUSEHOLD PANEL - 2012 - 2013
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Politics
Volume (Issue) 74(1)
Page(s) 129 - 141
Title of proceedings Journal of Politics


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.