Reasons for Political Interest and Apathy among University Students: A Qualitative Study

By Sarfaraz, Ayesha; Khalid, Ayesha et al. | Pakistan Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, April 2012 | Go to article overview

Reasons for Political Interest and Apathy among University Students: A Qualitative Study


Sarfaraz, Ayesha, Khalid, Ayesha, Ahmed, Shehla, Ajmal, M. Asir, Pakistan Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology


The research focused on exploring the various reasons for political interest and apathy among university students in order to understand why some youngsters are interested whereas others are apathetic towards our political system. Purposive sampling strategy was used to select the sample. The sample (N = 16) including men (n = 12) and women (n = 4) consisted of students from various departments of Government College University, Lahore. Age range of the sample was from 18 to 26 years. Focus group technique was used to collect data (indicators and responses). Grounded theory was applied for the purpose of analysis and themes were identified. Results indicated various reasons for political interest and apathy and their ramifications. The analysis revealed that although all participants unanimously agreed that there are flaws in the political system but participants who were interested in politics held an optimistic point of view regarding the situation and believed that through their involvement in politics they can bring about a change. People who were apathetic mostly had a pessimistic point of view and as a result had developed the feelings of learned helplessness and believed that no matter what they do all their efforts will be fruitless. This research serves as a resource for those who have an interest in increasing knowledge in the subject of politics and for those who are attracted to the idea of politics but are repelled by the partisanship and sophistries represented by most of the political establishments without realizing that their alienation would further worsen the situation.

Keywords: political interest, apathy, students, grounded theory

When we hear the word politics the images that come to mind are of government, politicians, and political parties or so to say the idea of corruption and dirty tricks. rOiese images have obscured the true meaning of the word politics which originated from a Greek word "polis", meaning the state or community as a whole. The idea of "Polis" emerged from the writings of Plato and Aristotle and referred to the development of an ideal state. According to them, politics referred to the use of various techniques and strategies to create a better society than the one already exist (Aristotle, 1996).

Politics is the process whereby groups of individuals make collective decisions. Politics is observed in all human group interactions including corporate, academic, and religious institutions. Politics help create laws that serve to protect human rights, such as freedom of thought, expression and action, justice for all and aims to achieve economic prosperity to create better living for all citizens and protects them against any threats to their lives and possessions (Aristotle, 1996).

Politics exists due to the broad spectrum of ideas and opinions within any society. Politics is thus used as a peacemaking strategy to provide solutions to conflict arising among groups and to facilitate the decision making process by involving all concerned parties. However, the most probable outcome might be a win-lose situation where one party will have to give in in order to reach a consensus. The mechanism however, may differ depending on the options that the parties are provided with. One such mechanism is

the use of votes to express one's opinion because the final decision depends on the amount of power that one group possesses and that comes from having a vast majority at their side. Power is enhanced by bringing more and more people over to one's side. Thus, by appealing to members of a society with solutions to their problems and promises to act in their interests, a group or individual can gain support and ultimately authority over other groups and individuals whether this be in an honest or dishonest way (Aristotle, 1996).

Regardless of the above mentioned fact, one inescapable reality of today's world is that a lot of people do not have the tendency to develop comprehensive political ideas. …

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