Graph of public trust in Government in the United States of America.

In political science, political efficacy is the citizens' trust in their ability to change the government and belief that they can understand and influence political affairs. It is commonly measured by surveys and is used as an indicator for the broader health of civil society.


It was introduced by Angus Campbell, Gerald Gurin, and W. E. Miller during an analyses of behavior and attitude of the voters in the 1952 United States presidential election and defined as the "feeling that individual action does have, or can have, an impact upon the political process".[1]

There are two types of political efficacy:

Investigations of external efficacy have shown limited policy responsiveness.[3]

Political efficacy is viewed as a "pre-condition for political engagement and is considered as a vital social characteristic within democratic societies."[4]

Proportional representation shows higher political efficacy compared to plurality and majoritarian systems.[5] Wasted vote can reduce political efficacy.[6] Low political efficacy can lead to populism.[7]

Ways of expression

There are multiple ways in which citizens' political efficacy can be expressed: through the media, by having the right to protest, by being able to create petitions, and by having free and fair elections. The feeling that a citizen is powerless in their own country may lead to political cynicism or outright violence, which are side effects of having low political efficacy in society. Citizens' political efficacy can also be expressed online through social media outlets as "media use – and news consumption in particular – enhances efficacy, public affairs knowledge, and civic engagement".[8]

Feelings of efficacy are highly correlated with participation in social and political life; however, studies have not shown any relationship between public confidence in government or political leaders and voting. Political efficacy was found to polarize policy preferences. People with relatively high efficacy were found to express policy preferences that are more in line with their ideological orientation and more extreme; and people with low efficacy tend to express more moderate policy preferences. These results were in both experimental and observational studies.[9] Efficacy usually increases with age.[10][11]

See also


  1. ^ Campbell, A.; Gurin, G.; Miller, W. E. (1954). The Voter Decides. Row, Peterson, and Co. p. 183.
  2. ^ Balch, George I. (1974). "Multiple Indicators in Survey Research: The Concept "Sense of Political Efficacy"". Political Methodology. 1 (2): 1–43. JSTOR 25791375.
  3. ^ Bernardi, L. Policy Responsiveness and Electoral Incentives: A (Re)assessment. Polit Behav 42, 165–188 (2020).
  4. ^ Karv, Thomas; Lindell, Marina; Rapeli, Lauri (2022). "How Context Matters: The Significance of Political Homogeneity and Language for Political Efficacy". Scandinavian Political Studies. 45: 46–67. doi:10.1111/1467-9477.12215. S2CID 237650639.
  5. ^ Karp, Jeffrey A.; Banducci, Susan A. (2008). "Political Efficacy and Participation in Twenty-Seven Democracies: How Electoral Systems Shape Political Behaviour". British Journal of Political Science. 38 (2): 311–334. doi:10.1017/S0007123408000161. hdl:10036/64393. S2CID 55486399.
  6. ^ Park, Chang Sup (2019). "The mediating role of political talk and political efficacy in the effects of news use on expressive and collective participation". Communication and the Public. 4: 35–52. doi:10.1177/2057047319829580. S2CID 150474892.
  7. ^ Rico, Guillem; Guinjoan, Marc; Anduiza, EVA (2020). "Empowered and enraged: Political efficacy, anger and support for populism in Europe". European Journal of Political Research. 59 (4): 797–816. doi:10.1111/1475-6765.12374. S2CID 213404031.
  8. ^ Ognyanova, Katherine; Ball-Rokeach, Sandra J. (2015-01-30). Robinson, Laura; Cotten, Shelia R.; Schulz, Jeremy (eds.). "Political Efficacy on the Internet: A Media System Dependency Approach". Studies in Media and Communications. 9. Emerald Group Publishing Limited: 3–27. doi:10.1108/s2050-206020150000009001. ISBN 978-1-78441-454-2. Retrieved 2022-10-07.
  9. ^ Sulitzeanu-Kenan, Raanan; Halperin, Eran (2013). "Making a Difference: Political Efficacy and Policy Preference Construction". British Journal of Political Science. 43 (2): 295–322. doi:10.1017/S0007123412000324. S2CID 51855514.
  10. ^ Gadgil, Arvinn (2022-11-01). "Do Governments Listen To Their Citizens?". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 2023-08-02.
  11. ^ Glenn, Norval D.; Grimes, Michael (1968). "Aging, Voting, and Political Interest". American Sociological Review. 33 (4): 563–575. doi:10.2307/2092441. ISSN 0003-1224. JSTOR 2092441.