Can Protests Expand the Scope of Conflict? Evidence from City Records and Online Activity

34 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2018 Last revised: 19 Jul 2018

See all articles by Nicolas Dumas

Nicolas Dumas

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: June 8, 2018

Abstract

Pluralism scholars and activists have long theorized that protests can “expand the scope of conflict” by increasing public attention to an issue, but data necessary for a formal causal test has only recently become available. To test this claim, I merge an original dataset of over 400 local protests in three US cities with daily, geo-referenced Google Search data. I show that protests can have a short-term but significant effect on the public’s willingness to actively seek out information related to the protest. To place the effect size in context, I analyze the subset of protests on topics that Pres. Trump also tweeted about. I find that a local protest garners about 60% the amount of public attention as a tweet by the President does on that same topic. Across different cities and different topics, protests can be a powerful tool for activists seeking to engage a larger audience.

Keywords: protests, pluralism, public interest, internet search

Suggested Citation

Dumas, Nicolas, Can Protests Expand the Scope of Conflict? Evidence from City Records and Online Activity (June 8, 2018). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2018-14. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3192992 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3192992

Nicolas Dumas (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
65
Abstract Views
460
rank
340,566
PlumX Metrics