The effect of municipality size on levels of political efficacy and political participation. A systematic review.

Mr. Joshua McDonnell

It is an old adage that local government is a training ground for democracy. Its human scale means that political amateurs can contribute effectively and meaningfully to the politics of a state. But in a political climate seemingly driven to consolidate local government into ever larger units, can a 'not so local' local government still elicit an efficacious and participatory citizenry? This paper explores the effect of municipality population size on two important aspects of democratic culture: political efficacy and political participation. Via a two-part systematic literature review, the paper examines how extant empirical evidence bears on the relationship between size and both of these aspects, hypothesising that political efficacy plays a mediating role between size and participation. The findings are unequivocal: citizens of smaller municipalities feel a greater sense of political efficacy and they also participate to a greater degree – often a substantially greater degree – in local politics.