Student union membership and political identification: network effects

Sofia-Yaryna Voytiv, Nils Gustafsson, Anna Tyllström

Forskningsoutput: KonferensbidragKonferensabstractPeer review


The vast majority of students at universities in Sweden are members of student unions. Universities strongly encourage students to enter unions as they give access to discounts, social events, clubs, and internships. Student unions are tasked with representing students towards the university. In addition, union membership in Sweden is rarely believed to have a political connotation. While often being a pragmatic choice to improve social life and get new connections, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted the advantages that student unions could bring: the switch to online education, closed campuses and student clubs, as well as a diminished need for student discounts, might have reduced the general interest in union membership, and even made the decision to join or remain a member of the union a political one. Furthermore, the social networks of students who started their first year might have been especially affected by the pandemic, which in turn can diminish peer pressure on joining unions.
In this paper we investigate this issue closer and find evidence that despite general and qualitative perception, membership in unions does correlate with political opinions placed within the left-right spectrum when accounting for network effects. Taking into account socio-economic background as well as controlling for personality traits, we compare student networks of union members and non-members to analyze the effects of others in the students’ networks on union memberships. To this end we use unique longitudinal ego-network student data from three business schools at different universities in Sweden and Finland that we collected over the period of 2019-2022. We use descriptive social network analysis and ERG models for ego-networks to analyze the data and compare the dynamics across the years with special considerations for pandemic effects in the networks. This study contributes to understanding of political values within social networks. In addition, this study is well placed in the study of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on sociability at the intersection of political attitudes.
StatusUnpublished - 2023 juni 30
EvenemangSunbelt 2023: International Network for Social Network Analysis - Portland, OR, USA
Varaktighet: 2023 juni 272023 juli 1


KonferensSunbelt 2023
OrtPortland, OR

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Kommunikationsvetenskap


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