Identity and Protest

Effects of Democracy and Inequality on Soft Political Protest in Europe: Exploring the European Social Survey Data

In this cross-national study, soft political-protest behavior is defined as participation in a legal demonstration, signing a petition, or contacting government officials. We find that in Europe in 2006 (1) the proportion of political protesters is significantly higher in old democracies than in the new, predominantly postcommunist, democracies, and (2) the greater the income inequality in both old and new democracies, the lower the proportion of political protesters. These two regularities, established for country-level data, hold even if the democracy index and gross domestic product per capita are controlled. Using individual-level data, we find that in all countries included in the European Social Survey trust in both parliament and social position positively influences the probability of individuals’ protest behavior. Combining both levels of analysis, we pay particular attention to the effects of two macro-characteristics: old/new democracies and income inequality. Both of these characteristics prove to be significant predictors of soft political-protest behavior.

 

Democracy, European Identity, and Trust in European Institutions: Toward Macro-Micro Explanations

For political elites and the general public, the issues of European identity and trust in European institutions are recurrent research themes (see chapters by Shabad and Słomczyński; Haman; and Marquart-Pyatt; and the works cited therein). Usually researchers look at correlates and determinants of identity and trust, focusing on various characteristics of individuals. The political climate within which these relations occur has not been directly analyzed, although past research provides theoretical discussions of the relevance of national contexts. In this chapter we make explicit the links with the political system and examine the possible relations between democracy as a country-level characteristic and individuals’ opinions on European identity and on trust in European institutions.

For a national democracy to last, a certain level of social consensus regarding “the rules of the democratic game” is necessary. These rules are set largely by basic political institutions. A social system’s ability to sustain the belief that these political institutions are adequate and trustworthy is a necessary condition for the proper functioning of democracy (Dahl 1989; Held 1987; Przeworski 1996; Sorensen 1993). Trust in institutions of public life is relevant not only at the national level but also at the international level, including the European Union.

Social scientists assume that trust in political institutions is a basis for legitimization of the political system. The European Union as a political system also needs legitimization through trust in its institutions. On the individual level, for pooled data from the IntUne countries, democracy— as a country-level variable—has a positive and significant effect on trust, even if two other macro variables are controlled: average trust of political elites and of the general public in the past. The impact of individuals’ characteristics— gender, age, and education—on their trust in European institutions is not very strong but statistically significant. The weak and significant effects reported in this chapter reflect the nature of the majority of sociological regularities involving demographic/structural characteristics, on the one hand, and people’s attitudes, on the other. The relatively strong impact on people’s trust in European institutions is exercised by the psychological variable, individual European identity.

We assume that identity is more deeply rooted in people’s minds than trust, and that identity affects trust. However, in the longer run we cannot exclude the possibility of a reciprocal relationship. In this chapter we focused on the impact of democracy on European identity and trust in European institutions. It is important to note that in Central and East European countries, the correlation between European identity and trust in European institutions in much lower than in Western and Southern Europe.

 

Locus of Territorial Attachments Intergroup Differences and Macrostructural Determinants of Subnational and Supranational Identities

In this paper, we elaborate on Hooghe and Marks’s (2001) conceptualization of territorial attachments. We assume that multi-identities related to the territory should reveal the locus on the continuum from local to national. On the basis of IntUne data, we build a ten-point scale, assigning high weights to multi-identity involving local and regional attachments and low weights to the attachments on only a national level and to the lack of territorial attachment altogether. In addition we use the measure of European identity. Our study achieves three goals: (1) it compares the strength of territorial attachment among political elites and the general population; (2) it assesses the effect of regional characteristics across countries on elites’ territorial attachment; and (3) it estimates the relationship between subnational identities and European identity. We show that there is a substantial intergroup variation in territorial attachments: political elites in most of the countries reveal stronger subnational identity than the masses. Regional characteristics of countries—conceptualized in terms of self-governing features and predetermined controlled features—explain a substantive portion of the relative strength of elites’ subnational identities. Subnational identities are positively related to European identities among the general populations but not among elites.

 

Democratic engagement of xenophobes and the ethno-discriminated in Europe

Every-day life rests on interactions with state structures and institutions, of which political ones represent a major type. We choose to engage politically to various degrees, depending on personal characteristics – civic skills, economic circumstances, age, interest in politics, to mention a few – and also on contextual ones, such as traits of the countries we live in. The former constitute the individual level condition for actions. The latter shapes both the opportunity structure for our political voice, as well as many of the individual-level conditions that drive it. Our chapter aims to explain democratic engagement for two groups at the heart of the socio-cultural cleavage common in European democracies (see Rydgren 2003; 2007; Cole 2005). In the first group are people who feel discriminated because of their ethnicity. In the second are people who espouse xenophobic attitudes, and who thereby help to create a discriminatory environment in which actual and perceived ethnic discrimination exists. So far, scholars have analyzed these groups’ political behaviors separately, that is, either for ethnic minorities, or for persons with anti-immigrant attitudes, and unequally, with far more attention given to ethnic minority participation.

 

Ecological Determinants of Local Government Opposition to Federal Policy

Public protest is usually conceived as challenge to the state, overlooking protest performed by governments within state structures. We identify local government opposition to federal policy decisions as a combination of contentious politics and policy innovation. This theoretical framework highlights the role of social structural conditions, political culture, and contextual pressures, which we examine using local government opposition to the USA PATRIOT Act as a case study. We employ multilevel mixed models on a merged data set constructed from (1) a list of places that opposed the Patriot Act, (2) the U.S. Census 2000, and (3) aggregated CBS News/New York Times national polls. We find that social and political variables at the community and at the state levels substantively impact the odds that local government entities express dissent to the Patriot Act. Results also show that prior instances of protest within a state carry significant weight for the process of remonstration.

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