Self-Determination Theory of Political Motivation
Political science knows much about the predictors of political engagement. According to one of the disciplines most prominent models, citizens refrain from engagement with political matters because they cann´t, because they don´t want to or because nobody asked. That people do something only if they want to do it seems trivial first sight. However, that citizens differ in their general motivation to engage with the political domain is an important that reveals a fundamental void in our knowledge about political attitudes and behavior:
Why do some people not other about politics at all, while others find pleasure in reading about, discussing and engaging in political matters and why still others would only reluctantly engage with politics to avoid social sanctions or to comply with an unpleasant civic duty. In particular, we need to better understand seemingly non-instrumental, intrinsically motivated behavior which is done for its own reward like watching a political TV show just for the sake of pleasure.
My dissertation develops a new theoretical framework to explain individual differences in political motivation and tries to explain its origins and behavioral consequences. To meaningfully explain intrinsically and extrinsically motivated political engagement I propose to import from motivation studies the psychological self-determination theory. Political motivation is argued to originate from domain-specific experiences and from the interplay of basic human needs´ satisfaction and innate organismic tendencies for growth and psychic integration. More autonomous types of motivation results are less context-dependent and result in different and more stable behavior that is subjectively experienced as more enjoyable. Analyses of a longitudinal cohort studies on parenting styles confirm the basic notion of need-related experiences early in life to shape political motivation and engagement in adulthood. The behavioral consequences of different types and levels of political motivation is investigated with a novel instrument to measure political motivation.