Process of Protest

My paper with Sarah Soule, “The Process of Protest: Accounting for Individual Protest Participation” has finally hit the Social Forces press, after being “forthcoming” for a good long time. The volume, eleventeen hundred pages of it, hit my mailbox yesterday, and I’m really happy to see the final product.

We draw on literature from both sociology and political science and use the American Citizen Participation Survey to test various models for individual-level participation in protest events. We use what I think is sort of a neat series of logistic regressions first to model overall participation, where being asked to take part is the most significant predictor, and then explore 1) the factors that put people in position to be asked, and 2) the factors that may overcome not being asked to protest. Computing estimated probabilities (much thanks to SPost, Scott Long and Jeremy Freese) allows us to consider the effects of various measures of individual characteristics on protest likelihood—that’s where I think the paper gets especially interesting. We find that civic participation, political interest, and organizational embeddedness are important predecessors of eventual protest participation, and we can estimate the overall magnitude of each of those effects. Respondents with a high degree of political interest and biographical availability, for example, have a very high (.73) probability of being asked to protest; respondents marked by low civic engagement and low organizational embeddedness are extremely unlikely (.02) to even be asked to protest. Among those specifically not asked to protest, the probability of actual protest participation is extraordinarily low: Under 1%. All this, we argue, suggests pretty strongly that protest participation is a strongly social event that is best explained by a model of over-time socially-structured events. Our findings also suggest something that is contrary to the sometimes-common perception that protesters are socially-isolated or politically alienated: Most protesters are highly politically knowledgable, active in “conventional” electoral politcs, and perceive themselves as having a voice in political processes.

Here’s the paper’s full cite: “Process and Protest: Accounting for Individual Protest Participation,” by Alan Schussman and Sarah A. Soule. Social Forces 84 (2):1082-1106.

Edit: There’s a ton of interesting-looking material in this volume of Social Forces, but the article that precedes ours caught my eye: Andrew Perrin writes about “political microcultures,” or the group contexts in which political discourse takes place. It’s a neat piece, and at first glance looks like a nice complement to the elements of our own article that draw on outcomes of particular kinds of civic engagement.