The Impact of Historical Events on Politicization: Quantitative Evidence from Western Europe, 1973-2002.

Sergio Galaz-Garcia, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE)

Although a consensus has grown that historical events—unexpected, punctuated, and collectively experienced moments of political contingency—are important political socialization factors, these expectations are based on case studies that have verified only event effects on political attitudes and only a handful of research settings. To address these limitations, I conduct a quantitative comparative analysis, the first to my knowledge, of event effects on everyday political engagement. Using 68 survey data points from 1973 to 2002, I evaluate the performance of 34 concrete historical events on levels of everyday political discussion in Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands from 1973 to 2002. I test hypotheses from dominant generational theories of event effects, which see their influences on political engagement as positive, persistent, and stronger the more intense the political disruption they produced. I also offer an alternative “diachronic” outlook to event effects. This outlook sees the influence of an event in political engagement as eroding over time, positive or negative depending on whether it was divisive or unifying, and stronger the more effective an event was in changing state actions. I found supportive evidence for these expectations by testing the statistical association of cohort exposure to the events I analyze and political talk levels in 72 regressions per country. My findings suggest that events differ between them not in degree, but in their logics of socializing influence, and bring attention to their capacity to affect, beyond attitudes, more general orientations to politics.

See paper

 Presented in Session 150. Democratization, democratic ideology