What is Political Efficacy?

Definition and meaning of political efficacy: Political efficacy refers to an individual's belief in their ability to influence the political process. Rooted in the core of democratic values, political efficacy is the confidence a citizen has that their actions—like voting, protesting, or engaging in civic dialogues—can bring about change. This belief can be broken down into two components: internal efficacy, which is a person’s confidence in their personal understanding and abilities to engage in politics; and external efficacy, the belief that the broader system will respond to their efforts. When political efficacy is high, citizens are more likely to participate actively in their democracy. Conversely, a lack of political efficacy, perhaps stemming from perceived corruption, unresponsive representatives, or other barriers, can lead to apathy and disengagement. Efforts to boost political efficacy might include education campaigns, community engagement initiatives, or reforms to make the political process more transparent and accessible.

In the United States, the dysfunction of the two-party system can lead to low political efficacy. Voters may feel that even if they show up to vote on election days, their opinion will not make a real difference in the outcome of the election. Citizens may also feel that they have no effective way to influence the decisions of their representatives. A 2022 study by the Pew Research Center found that 71% of Americans said the political system allows people like them to have no or not much influence on politics. Only 27% of respondents said the political system allows people like them to have a great deal or a fair amount of influence on politics. This low rate of political efficacy can feed into Americans’ disillusionment with politics.


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