Theorists contend that private social groups-particularly those that have no overt political missions such as bowling leagues, sports clubs, and choral societies-make major contributions to democracy by generating engagement with democracy in the form of political interest and participation. Although this discussion is generally at an aggregate level, it is based on seldom-tested assumptions about individual-level phenomena. This study expands our understanding of how (and where) memberships in various groups are associated with political engagement of individual citizens. We test if the effects of group membership vary across eleven European democracies and test which types of groups have the strongest association with political engagement. We find that major social groups differ in their relationship with engagement, and we also find that formal political arrangements for group accommodation may condition the effects of some memberships on engagement.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/todd_donovan/4/