Get in touch with your members frequently – it’s the way to get people involved, says the research

Welcome to the latest in my occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today it is back to the work of the trio of party membership experts Paul Webb, Tim Bale and Monica Poletti.

I’ve looked before at their work about why many active supporters of a party choose not to join it (and hence the logic behind having a registered supporter scheme). This time it’s about what makes members get active:

This article asks what motivates members to engage in high-intensity election campaign activism. It argues that two factors are especially prominent: the aspiration to pursue a career in politics (which only accounts for a small minority of these activists) and becoming integrated into a local social network (which accounts for a much larger proportion). By contrast, members who lack either of these characteristics, but are mainly motivated to join by ideological impulses, largely restrict themselves to low-intensity activity.

Here’s how that integration into local social networks was measured:

• joined the party because of desire to mix with like-minded people;
• subjective left-right distance from respondent’s own local party;
• frequency of face-to-face contact with others in party during past 12 months;
• frequency of phone contact with others in party during past 12 months; and
• frequency of email contact with others in party during past 12 months

Factors three to five in that list are, of course, under a party’s own direct control.

See more details of the research in Paul Webb, Tim Bale and Monica Poletti, “Social networkers and careerists: Explaining high-intensity activism among British party members”, International Political Science Review, 1-16, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0192512118820691.

You can read the other posts in the Evidence-based campaigning: what the academic research says series here.

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