University of Leicester
Bischof_PHD.pdf (1.09 MB)

Does Protest Matter? Parties’ Rhetorical Reactions to Protesters’ Claims in Comparative Perspective

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posted on 2016-04-21, 09:07 authored by Daniel Bischof
In my PhD thesis I disentangle the rhetorical reactions of political parties to public opinion and protest. Previous research on political responsiveness of parties pre-eminently views the relation between public opinion polls and party agendas as the key feature of responsiveness (Miller and Stokes 1963; Soroka and Wlezien 2010; Stimson, Mackuen, and Erikson 1995; Burstein 1998; Adams et al. 2006; Ezrow 2010). Yet, taking to the street has become an ever more important toolbox to articulate popular grievances. Social movements have emerged throughout Western advanced democracies and transformed the political landscape in Europe. Also new political parties emerged from these social movements – such as Green parties and the New Left (Kitschelt 1994; Kriesi et al. 1992). It is, therefore, surprising that the link between political parties and protest has largely remained a lacuna in social movement studies and the literature on party competition. My thesis is a first attempt to address this gap. I argue that besides public opinion polls, political protest will affect party position taking. I hypothesise that growing protest leads to polarisation of party systems. While all parties will increase their attention to the issue at stake during protest in an effort to secure votes and/or office, they respond differently to protest contingent on how their ideology relates to protesters’ demands. Furthermore, the success of protest depends on its support by the public at large. I test my theoretical framework using a new and unique data-set containing party positions on nuclear energy – revealed in interviews, press statements and press conferences – of 67 parties across 12 Western Democracies. I run time-series-cross-sectional models to test my theoretical arguments. Traditionally susceptible to responding to anti-nuclear protest, parties of the left understand increased protest as a window of opportunity to influence policy debate in their favour, while right-wing parties perceive protest as a threat to their ideological position on the usage of nuclear energy. Furthermore, I aim to understand in my last empirical chapter whether protest also affects parties’ issue emphasis in manifestos. To this end, I use the Comparative Manifesto Project data and protest data on 18 democracies across 15 years to estimate how parties adapted their issue emphasis to postmaterialist issues. While I again find a significant influence of protest on parties’ issue emphasis, the polarisation hypothesis does not find support in my last chapter. Finally, the instrumental variable models used in this last chapter suggest that the causal direction runs from protest to parties’ position.



Morales, Laura; Guerra, Simona

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of Politics and International Relations

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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