Creating Critical Citizens? Anti-Austerity Protests and Public Opinion.
44 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2018 Last revised: 21 May 2019
Date Written: May 20, 2019
Following the Great Recession, many Western 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, because they voice non-institutionalized actors instead of elites in the public debate. In doing so, they make that debate more relatable. I test this claim with resource to a quasi-experimental design that takes advantage of a protest during the fieldwork of the ESS5 in Portugal. Supporting the argument, exposure to the protest decreased satisfaction and trust in elites. I find no evidence that the protest made individuals more disengaged from politics — if anything, the protest increased efforts in seeking for information about politics. Supporting the argument regarding the mechanism, the protest increased the number of claims by non-institutionalized actors reported in the press and its effect was stronger for individuals whose characteristics resembled those of the participants.
Keywords: protest politics, public opinion, social movements, political support, critical citizens, causal inference models
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