Liberal democracies are under pressure around the globe. They are challenged by populist and authoritarian actors and movements who question and erode democratic norms. Against this backdrop, democracies depend particularly on the support and the actual participation of citizens in democratic and societal processes. To explain participation, this paper focuses on the role of citizenship norms. It asks under which circumstances citizens act upon their normative conceptions of a ‘good citizen’. I argue that it matters how strongly and how uniformly this norm is shared in the context. Strong prevalence and strong consensus about the norm to vote are expected to activate this norm and to promote actual participation in elections. In these circumstances, citizens will feel social pressure to show conforming behavior. This argument is empirically tested using data from the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) 2014 and applying hierarchical modelling techniques. The results lend support to the theoretical expectations: higher norm prevalence strengthens the link between the individual norm and participation while a higher variance weakens it. This informs us about ways to promote political participation as normatively desirable behavior.
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