Voting: Duty, Obligation or the Job of a Good Citizen? An Examination of Subjective & Objective Understandings of These Drivers and Their Ability to Explain Voting Behaviour.
Millican, Adrian Simon
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
This thesis contains a number of sophisticated measurement ideas that require further time to be explored fully. Two years is necessary to allow for further data collection, analysis and to ensure that there has been time to publish preliminary findings prior to the release of this thesis.
This thesis explores subjective and objective understandings of civic duty, obligation and good citizenship. Despite the importance of these drivers of behaviour, a lack of empirical understanding about what these drivers are and how they are understood has left a significant gap in our understanding of voting behaviour. My research contributes to the field by examining three central themes; Are duty, obligation and good citizenship understood the same? Are one or more of these traits suitable for cross-national research? Can a new conceptual model of civic duty help further the use of civic duty in studies of voting behaviour? In order to do this, this thesis analyses the following issues: (1) objectively exploring duty, obligation and good citizenship (2) analysing subjective understandings of these concepts (3) demonstrating individual level drivers of these concepts (4) demonstrating the impact of institutions, and cross-national differences have upon duty, obligation and good citizenship (5) showing how these concepts relate to voting behaviour (6) by testing and proving that a new approach to measuring civic duty can provide a model that explains not only long term immutable voting habits, but why individuals may vote out of duty sometimes, and abstain at others and (7) finally providing substantial evidence from what is an exploratory study to help in the formation of future representative research and to demonstrate the importance of taking civic duty seriously in forthcoming voting behaviour research. Using the theoretical and philosophical literature, I argue that despite the empirical literature treating obligation, good citizenship and civic duty as the same concept and driver of voting behaviour, that individuals understand these traits uniquely, and that they are all separate motivators, with duty being contingent on external forces (social capital) and obligation being contingent on personal or inward pressures. I argue that given the limited literature on good citizenship, there is no clear idea of what it means and that good citizenship will be contingent on what an individual deems to be "good". Finally, I argue that old models of civic duty are outdated, and that a new conceptual framework of duty needs to be introduced to accurately demonstrate how individuals understand it, and actually demonstrate its impact upon individual level voting behaviour. Using data from a pilot study, with an embedded survey experiment (N=735) collected in the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland, I demonstrate that not only are duty, obligation and good citizenship understood differently, but the drivers of the concepts are significantly different. While obligation shows no relationship to voting behaviour within or across countries, good citizenship appears to be a good driver of second order elections while civic duty appears to drive first order and high saliency elections. Duty appears to be contingent upon external factors, while good citizenship appears to be contingent upon the behaviour of politicians, and citizenship education suggesting a social contract type relationship. Institutional factors appear to indirectly impact voting behaviour with a mediating effect on the strengths of duty and good citizenship. Finally, evidence suggests that previous notions of an "immutable" sense of duty are unfounded, and that an individuals’ sense of duty is contingent on a range of internal and external pressures. The first empirical chapter focuses on individual level understandings of duty, obligation and good citizenship, before the second empirical chapter expands this to look at cross-national differences in the understanding of, and drivers of duty obligation and good citizenship. Finally, the third empirical analyses a new model of civic duty and suggests that its previous use has been limited by ineffective measures. While the evidence presented in this thesis is exploratory and not generalisable or representative of any of the countries sampled, the evidence from the sample strongly suggests that future development of the study of civic duty, and further analysis of how duty, obligation and good citizenship are understood in representative samples are needed to confirm the findings presented in this thesis, and build upon what is a successful pilot study. This research finds its limitations in the number of survey items available to build a complete picture of all drivers of individual understandings of duty, obligation and good citizenship.
PhD in Politics