Does aggregate ideological extremism reduce public participation? Does participation in governance processes fall when the social environment shifts to the extreme left or the extreme right of the political spectrum? We argue that the aggregate ideological orientation of the social environment constrains volunteerism in social regulatory programs. We further show the differential effects of two types of aggregate ideological orientation: of citizens and their political leaders. Our data are drawn from the case of the federal Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. We develop a statistical model of public participation (expressed as volunteerism) that shows that participation expands when the ideological position of a state’s citizens is at the extreme left or right of the political continuum. We further find that participation is greatest in states with extremely liberal citizen ideological positions. In sum, public participation is greatest when there the social environment is ideologically polarized, and social regulation is strongest when volunteerism is greatest.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/holona_ochs/5/