Politics in the Supermarket: Political Consumerism as a Form of Political Participation
By Dietlind Stolle, Marc Hooghe, Michele Micheletti
Both anecdotal and case-study evidence have long suggested that consumer behavior such as the buying or boycotting of products and services for political and ethical reasons can take on political significance. Despite recent claims that such behavior has become more widespread in recent years, political consumerism has not been studied systematically in survey research on political participation. Through the use of a pilot survey conducted among 1015 Canadian, Belgian, and Swedish students, we ascertain whether political consumerism is a sufficiently consistent behavioral pattern to be measured and studied meaningfully. The data from this pilot survey allow us to build a “political consumerism index” incorporating attitudinal, behavioral, and frequency measurements. Our analysis of this cross-national student sample suggests that political consumerism is primarily a tool of those who are distrustful of political institutions. However, political consumers have more trust in other citizens, and they are disproportionately involved in checkbook organizations. They also tend to score highly on measures of political efficacy and post-materialism. We strongly suggest including measurements of political consumerism together with other emerging forms of activism in future population surveys on political participation.