Blaming the Young Misses the Point: Re-assessing Young People’s Political Participation over Time Using the ‘Identity-equivalence Procedure’

Christian Schnaudt, Michael Weinhardt


One of the central and constantly recurring features of youth participation studies is the depiction of young people and adolescents as the future of democratic politics. According to previous research, however, young people exhibit generally lower levels of political participation than adults and show decreasing trends in their politica activities over time. In this study, we argue that, in order to arrive at meaningful conclusions about young and adult people’s political participation over time, ‘construct-equivalent’ rather than identical instruments of political participation across different age groups and time points should be used. Applying the so called ‘identity-equivalence procedure’ for political participation across three different age groups and the time period 2002-2014 using data from the European Social Survey (ESS), our results indicate that (1) the concrete manifestations of the concept of political participation differ across young and adult people and over time and (2) levels of political participation are quite similar for young and adult people and increasing from 2002-2014. Therefore, the commonly employed strategy of applying identical instruments of political participation across age groups and time points appears at least questionable.


political participation, youth participation, democracy, measurement equivalence, scale development, Mokken scale analysis, European Social Survey

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Copyright (c) 2017 Christian Schnaudt, Michael Weinhardt

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