Political efficacy, the belief that the ruled in a political system have some capacity for exercising influence over the rulers, has been studied extensively by political researchers. A selected bibliography compiled by Easton and Dennis in early 1967 contains some thirty books and articles which have dealt in one way or another with political efficacy and its correlates. And this bibliography could be updated considerably.
Substantial theoretic import has been attributed to political efficacy. Easton and Dennis consider the SRC sense of political efficacy construct to be an important determinant of the persistence of democratic regimes. They argue that beliefs in political efficacy provide “a reservoir of diffuse support upon which the system can automatically draw in normal times, when members may feel that their capacity to manipulate the environment is not living up to their expectations, and in special periods of stress, when popular participation may appear to be pure illusion or when political outputs fail to measure up to insistent demands,” A related construct, termed “subjective competence” by Almond and Verba, is based on different indicators but interpreted as substantively equivalent to the SRC construct. On the basis of their analysis of the Five-Nation data, Almond and Verba arrive at the general conclusion that “the self-confident [subjectively competent] citizen appears to be the democratic citizen.” The concept of political competence, as formulated by Barnes, subsumes political efficacy under the aegis of an individual attribute consisting of “political skills plus the sense of efficacy necessary for effective political action.” Barnes contends that high levels of political competence dispose individuals to prefer democratic styles of leadership, while low levels dispose individuals to prefer authoritarian styles. On these grounds, he concludes that relatively high levels of political competence are a necessary condition of political democracy.