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Study notes

Political apathy

  • Levels: AS, A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Political apathy is best described when a citizen is indifferent in their attitude to political activities, such as electing politicians, having opinions, and their civic responsibility. A more simplified term for political apathy would be that someone ‘cannot be bothered’ to participate in their country’s political system.

Political apathy can stem from a lack of understanding of politics and government that could make it difficult for that person to see any value in voting or from seeing the benefits and costs of the government policies being put forward. The individual might then see it as irrational to try to gain the knowledge as there would supposedly be no benefit to them. Bear in mind though that it is possible for a person to be fully educated and understand politics yet still be wilfully apathetic towards it.

Measuring political apathy is difficult, although it can be seen in the amount of the citizens’ knowledge, activity and political involvement.

The reason political apathy is an issue is because it is believed that a nation’s development and for its laws to function to their fullest, there needs to be as high a level of political awareness as possible. This political awareness leads to the ruled and the rulers serving as a check on one another.

It is useful to distinguish here between ‘apathy’ and ‘abstention’, with the latter being a deliberate decision not to vote, or take part in the political process, as a way of sending a message to politicians.

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