Creating Critical Citizens? Anti-Austerity Protests and Public Opinion.
40 Pages Posted: 6 Dec 2018 Last revised: 26 Feb 2020
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, by voicing civil society actors instead of elites in the public debate and making such debate more relatable. 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 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 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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