Creating Critical Citizens? Anti-Austerity Protests and Public Opinion.
Valentim, Vicente. Creating Critical Citizens? Anti-Austerity Protests and Public Opinion. Electoral Studies, Forthcoming.
53 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2018 Last revised: 23 Apr 2021
Date Written: May 20, 2019
Following the Great Recession, many countries witnessed large protests against the austerity policies their governments implemented. What was their effect on public opinion? I argue that these protests can make citizens more critical of elite performance, but not more disaffected or undemocratic. Anti-austerity protests voice civil society actors instead of elites in the public debate, making such debate more relatable. Such increased relatability can make individuals more comfortable expressing their own dissatisfaction, and it can make them perceive that their voice is more valued. Taking advantage of a demonstration happening during the fieldwork of the fifth wave of the European Social Survey in Portugal, I find exposure to the protest decreased satisfaction and trust in elites. I find no evidence that the protest made individuals more disaffected from politics or more undemocratic. Supporting the argument regarding the mechanism, the protest increased the number of claims by civil society actors reported in the press and its effect was stronger for individuals worse represented by institutionalized elites. These findings highlight the democratic importance of unconventional forms of participation, and deepen our understanding of their interplay with conventional politics.
Keywords: protest politics, public opinion, social movements, political support, critical citizens, causal inference models
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