When is protest persuasive? Or, more precisely, how do protest actions succeed in eliciting supportive reactions of citizens and political elites? Protest has become a mainstream instrument in Western democracies for citizens to signal problems and communicate preferences. Evidence on how protest proves influential is scarce, however.
This project seeks to contribute to the recent surge in attention to protest impact in four particular ways. First, it places the role of mass media in protest politics center stage. It formulates and substantiates a theory on protest impact with media attention as crucial mediating variable. It is through media coverage that protest is perceived and it is to media cues that observers of protest react. Second, it lays bare the mechanisms that drive protest power. It tests how internal characteristics of protest –displays of worthiness, unity, numbers and commitment– influence the salience people attach to the protest issue, the position they take on that issue and the action they are willing to take.
Third, it compares two protest publics -elites and citizens- and as such explores two pathways of protest impact. Finally, this project also innovates methodologically. It introduces experiments in the field of protest impact research. Experiments guarantee researcher control, can ascertain causality and hence are ideally suited to test and tease out the mechanisms that drive the mediated persuasive power of protest.
October 2014 - September 2017
Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO)