From theory to practice: how to apply van Deth’s conceptual map in empirical political participation research

Jakob Ohme*, Claes Holger de Vreese, Erik Albæk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In a time when digitally networked and unconventional activities challenge our understanding of political participation, van Deth (Acta Polit
49(3):349–367, 2014) has developed a map to consolidate previous attempts at conceptualizing political participation. He suggests a framework operating with
four distinct types of political participation that apply across time and context and therefore potentially may lead to higher comparability of results in participation
research. However, his map faced criticism for not accounting for digital and other recent participatory activities, and so far, it remains a theoretical endeavor that
needs to prove its utility when applied to the diverse set of participatory activities. Our study empirically tests how recently emerging participatory activities, such as
crowdfunding or urban gardening, can conceptually be combined with more traditional forms of participation. We use 27 participatory activities from a national
survey conducted in Denmark (N = 9125) to test van Deth’s framework. A confirmatory factor analysis demonstrates the existence of four distinct types of
political participation, based on the sphere, the target, and the intention of activities. Our model furthermore indicates that the distinction between online and
offline activities has decreased in relevance and that new and unconventional participation activities can be subsumed under van Deth’s four types of political
Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Politica
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)367-390
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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