Survey Variable: Membership Length

Having asked about involvement with a range of political organisations, the survey asked people who were members of an organisation how long they had held that status. As Figure 1 (above, using weighted data) shows, the vast majority of respondents indicated that they were not members of an organisation and were thus not asked about how long they had held membership.[1] One sixth (16.4%, panel B) of respondents have been members of a trade union or professional association, which are the types of organisation with the highest proportion of people who are members. They are followed by charities (10.3%, panel D), political parties (5.9%, panel A), and campaign organisations (5.4%, panel C). In all cases, the largest category of members is those who have held membership for more than 10 years, though the distribution is flatter for political parties and campaign organisations than for charities and trade unions and professional associations.

We can also combine the above variables to show the longest amount of time that people have been a member of at least one type of organisation. The results of doing so are graphed in Figure 2 (below, also using weighted data), and show that less than a third of people (28.9%) have been a member of at least one type of organisation for at least some time. Amongst those who are members, there is a clear pattern in which the percentage of people who are members increases with the length of membership. Approaching half of the people who are members (46.0%, or 13.3% of all respondents) have been a member of at least one type of organisation for more than 10 years. This may indicate that membership is disproportionately dominated by older, or at least middle aged, people since it is difficult for younger people to have held membership for more than 10 years. It is also worth pointing out, again, that surveys of respondents drawn from online panels of volunteers (using quotas) tend to greatly over-sample politically active people, including people who are members of political organisations. As such, it is unlikely that such a high proportion of the population at large holds membership of these types of organisations, whatever their length of membership.

Figure 2. See also Table 2A.
Variables namespp_memberpp_r, pp_membertupa_r,
pp_memberco_r, pp_memberchar_r
Number of cases1,405
Number of categories6
Categories to code as missingNone
Cases to code as missingNone
Recoded variable namespp_member_longest
Number of cases1,405
Number of categories6
New and old categoriesBy default, pp_member_longest is coded as 0
(not a member). If a respondent indicated that
they have been a member of at least one type
of organisation for ‘Less than 1 year’ (category
1) then pp_member_longest was recoded to
‘Less than one year’ (category 1). If a
respondent indicated that they have been a
member of at least one type of organisation
for ‘1-2 years’ (category 2) then
pp_member_longest was recoded to ‘1-2 years’
(category 2). This recoding was repeated,
sequentially, for each category. Thus,
pp_member_longest indicates the longest that
each respondent has been a member of any
type of organisation.
Details of the original and recoded membership length variables.

[1] The weighted and unweighted numbers behind Figure 1 can be found in Table 1A.

Published by joegreenwoodhau

Joe Greenwood-Hau is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Government & Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde, where he works on the Capital, Privilege and Political Participation in Britain and Beyond project.

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