Doctor of Philosophy
Research has indicated that social workers are more politically active than the general public (Wolk, 1981; Parker and Sherraden, 1991), but their effectiveness has been questioned (Mathews, 1982). There are differences among social workers, but explanations of differences between "very active" and "inactive" have relied primarily on practice setting or method. However, research in political science has shown that income, education, involvement in associations, and perceived political efficacy, are significant predictors of who does not participate (Verba, Schlozman, and Brady, 1995).
Five hundred certified social workers were surveyed regarding how often they engaged in political activities (e.g., voting and campaigning) between 1995 and 1997; 242 surveys were returned. Whereas 92 percent of respondents voted in 1996, fewer than 1 in 5 met with government officials or worked in a political campaign; only 3 percent testified before a legislative body. Information on each respondent's performance of specific political tasks was used to create a Political Participation Score (PPS). Scores range from 0 through 11, with higher scores indicating greater political activity. Six percent of respondents were "inactive" (3 or less), 88 percent were "active" ( 4 through 7), and 6 percent were "very active" (9 or more).
The PPS was the dependent variable in ordinary least squares regression analysis, used to estimate the effect of political socialization, resources, perceived political efficacy, and involvement with professional associations on certified social workers' political activity. The significant predictors (p≤.05) were political efficacy (b=.237), recruitment to action by a social work association (b=2.34), interest in public affairs (b=.210) and activity in NASW (b=.165). Income and education were not significant predictors of the respondents' participation.
The significant role of political efficacy suggests that strategies to increase social workers' perceived efficacy could increase their political activity. Greater performance of high-cost activities (e.g., testifying or meeting with government officials) could increase social workers' input into the development of social policy. Social learning theory (Bandura, 1978) is utilized to identify strategies for use by social work educators and professional associations to increase social workers' perceived efficacy and, therefore, the performance of higher-cost political acts.
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