Class participation in politics in Southeast Asia

Joseph J. Capuno


Using the dataset from the Asian Barometer Survey conducted in 2010-2012, we determine the variations in political participation across socioeconomic classes in five Southeast Asian countries and apply Oaxaca decomposition method to explain the variations. In general, we find high rates of voting participation across classes in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand. In Singapore, barely half of the sample voted in previous elections. In Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, the middle classes distinguish themselves from the rest by participating in other political activities, including contacting officials or the news media, joining others to voice out or directly address their common concerns, and attending rallies or demonstrations. Furthermore, interclass differences in political participation is due more to divergence in mean characteristics in Thailand, but they are due more to the heterogeneous effects of these characteristics in Indonesia and Malaysia. Relative to the middle classes in these three countries, those in the Philippines and Singapore each appears politically disengaged.

JEL classification: D72, Z10, 057


political participation, middle class, Oaxaca decomposition, Southeast Asia

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