Poli-hobbyism: A Theory of Mass Politics

Eitan D. Hersh: “For many citizens, participation in politics is not motivated by civic duty or selfinterest, but by hobbyism: the objective is self-gratification. I offer a theory of political hobbyism, situate the theory in existing literature, and define and distinguish the hobbyist motivation from its alternatives. I argue that the prevalence of political hobbyism depends on historical conditions related to the nature of leisure time, the openness of the political process to mass participation, and the level of perceived threat. I articulate an empirical research agenda, highlighting how poli-hobbyism can help explain characteristics of participants, forms of participation, rates of participation, and the nature of partisanship. Political hobbyism presents serious problems for a functioning democracy, including participants confusing high stakes for low stakes, participation too focused on the gratifying aspects of politics, and unnecessarily potent partisan rivalries….(More)”