Mind this gap, too: political orientations of people with disabilities in Europe

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People with disabilities constitute one of the largest minority groups in Europe, and yet our knowledge about how they relate to the political system remains limited. In addition to facing practical barriers such as inaccessible campaign material and polling stations, they often have fewer resources that facilitate and promote confidence and engagement in politics. Moreover, experiences of discrimination and low numbers of politicians with disabilities can generate feelings of disempowerment. Using European Social Survey data from 30 countries from 2002 to 2015, this study shows that people with disabilities have lower levels of internal and external efficacy, political trust and interest, and electoral participation. The disparities in internal efficacy and political interest disappear when accounting for education, income, employment, and social contact. Meanwhile, significant gaps in external efficacy, political trust, and turnout remain to be explained. Perceptions of discrimination strengthen the internal efficacy and political interest of citizens with disabilities but further decrease their external efficacy, political trust, and turnout. The study sheds light on a frequently overlooked dimension of political inequality, provides insights on several contributing factors, and highlights where further research is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)791-818
Number of pages28
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number3
Early online date27 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020


  • political engagement
  • disability
  • political trust
  • political inequality
  • Europe

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