You won’t always have the luxury of feeling like you’re going to win on every issue and in every race, but it may be helpful to make sure some of the political actions you take can feel like wins—actions in service of a goal in which you feel capable of contributing toward a positive outcome. There are two important caveats to this principle. First, if you are so certain that your goal will be achieved that your participation no longer matters, you may be demotivated. Second, even though taking action toward winnable causes may be easier to sustain, there are still underdog causes that are incredibly important and worth fighting for.
The insights offered here are intended to provide individuals and organizations a better understanding of how to create and sustain long-term political engagement. Following the 2016 election, many new tech tools and resourceshave emerged and become vital to the movement to mobilize citizens. These tools are ideal vehicles to translate the insights offered here into interventions and activities that boost political participation. We believe Postcards4VA is a success story not only for the impact they had in Virginia but also for their willingness to use the research process to better understand the behavioral factors that motivate their volunteers to stay engaged.
Applying behavioral science to political engagement offers a new perspective through which to identify and address the many obstacles that citizens face in sustaining meaningful political participation. By considering the social, emotional, and psychological factors that influence political engagement, we can develop better tools to help everyday citizens improve the political system.