The relationship between participation in civic and political activities and membership of voluntary associations is now well established. What is less clear is the relative impacts of how much time people spend on group activities (associational intensity), and the number and type of groups that individuals are involved with (associational scope). Does it matter in terms of civic engagement, for example, whether one is a member of a quilting-circle or trade union? Does it matter whether association ‘membership’ is simply an annual payment or a major commitment of time and energy? In this article, we use a large survey to explore these questions empirically by focusing on the membership patterns and civic engagement practices of 4,001 citizens drawn from eight suburbs across Greater Melbourne, Australia. Our findings indicate that, while associational intensity is positively related to civic engagement, associational scope (the number of group memberships per person), is a more influential determinant of the level of civic and political participation. The results also suggest that while all forms of associationalism are important in terms of fostering greater levels of civic activity, not all forms have the same impact.
Alexander, D. T., Barraket, J., Lewis, J., & Considine, M. (2012). Civic Engagement and Associationalism: The Impact of Group Membership Scope versus Intensity of Participation. European Sociological Review, 28(1), 43-58. https://doi.org/10.1093/esr/jcq047