Scholars studying political participation usually identify its several forms or kinds. Since political participation refers to several kinds of activities by which people participate in politics, scholars classify political participation as direct and indirect, active and inactive, high and low, legitimate and illegitimate, and few others.
Mostly, the following forms of political participation are identified by them:
1. Direct Political Participation:
When people play a direct role in the election of their rulers and in the decision-making or policy-formulation process, political participation is identified as Direct Political Participation. In political systems with direct legislation and direct election systems there is direct political participation.
2. Indirect Political Participation:
In representative democracies, the people elect their representatives directly and through them take part in the decision-making process. The representatives are accountable to the people and they represent the people in the decision-making and policy-formulation.
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3. Active Political Participation:
When people actively participate in the political processes, leadership-recruitment, elections, electoral politics, political communication, party politics, pressure group activities etc., the political participation is referred to as active political participation. Active political participation characterises liberal democratic systems.
4. Low or Passive Political Participation:
When the people have little interest in the political process and they are not fully oriented towards the political system and its subsystems which makes them politically apathetic, the political participation is called Low or Passive.
5. Instrumental Political Participation:
When people participate in politics with definite ends in view which they want to achieve in politics, the political participation is identified by Davies and Milbrath, as Instrumental Political Participation. When several people participate in politics for securing a majority for their political party, it is a case of instrumental political participation.
6. Expressive Political Participation:
When people participate in politics without any commitment to a definite objective, but for the satisfaction of their feelings or sentiments or emotions, the political participation is referred to as Expressive Political Participation.
However, it is very difficult, almost impossible to separate instrumental political participation from expressive political participation. Almost always, the two are present simultaneously.
7. Political Participation through Legitimate Means:
When people participate in the political process through legitimate and constitutional means, the political participation is identified as Legitimate Political Participation. Participation in politics through involvement in party campaigns, political meetings and demonstrations and the like, fall in the category of Legitimate Political Participation.
8. Political Participation through Illegitimate Means:
Participation in politics through violent and non-constitutional means – riots, violent outbursts, destruction of public property, and involvement in political violence, electoral malpractices etc., and fall under the category of Political Participation through illegitimate means.
9. Tutored and Coerced Political Participation:
In Totalitarian and Authoritarian political systems (Despotic and Dictatorial States), the power-holders always try to secure people’s participation in politics in a desired way. This is designed to show the popularity and credibility of their dictatorial regimes.
Very often it is projected that a ruling dictator has secured more than 97% votes in an election, which is only a sham election. The dictators always try to protect and defend their regimes as highly popular regimes. Such a political participations are unreal, tutored and coerced political participations.
Thus, political scientists make a distinction between several forms of political participation on the basis of several factors. In every political system, political participation is characterised by all these forms. The study of the nature, level and forms of political participation can be one basic way of studying human behaviour in politics.