Political alienation is not to be confused with voter apathy, which describes a person's indifference to voting and/or the voting process. When politically alienated, people feel compelled to vote, but are restricted by their sense of insignificance to the system. They feel that they are underrepresented or not represented at all by those running for office; their best interest or concerns are not regarded.
Political alienation falls into two broad categories: political incapability and political discontentment. In the first instance, alienation is forced upon the individual by their environment, whereas in the second case it is voluntarily chosen by them.
There are four different ways in which political alienation may be expressed:
- Political powerlessness. An individual's feeling that they cannot affect the actions of the government.
- Political meaninglessness. An individual's perception that political decisions are unclear and unpredictable.
- Political normlessness. An individual's perception that norms or rules intended to govern political relations are broken down, and that departures from prescribed behavior are common.
- Political isolation. An individual's rejection of political norms and goals that are widely held and shared by other members of a society.
- Political disappointment. An individual's disinterest to a political decision or participation because of the ruling class bad behaviors, such as, leaders having scandals by doing shameful things.
- Glasberg, Davita Silfen; Shannon, Deric (November 16, 2010). Political Sociology: Oppression, Resistance, and the State. SAGE Publications, Inc; 1 edition. ISBN 1412980402. OCLC 815880812.
- Olsen, Marvin E. (1968). "Two Categories of Political Alienation". Social Forces 47. Retrieved 2011-06-21.
- Finifter, Ada W. (June 1970). "Dimensions of Political Alienation". The American Political Science Review. 64: 389–410. JSTOR 1953840. doi:10.2307/1953840.