Perceptions of Government, Attitudes to the European Union, and Political Efficacy: Understanding Protest Potential in Southern Europe in Times of Crisis

Maria Grasso, Marco Giugni

The economic crisis starting in 2008/09 has led to unemployment growth and shrinking GDP across Europe. There is great variation in the extent to which the crisis impacted on the economic conditions of different countries in Europe. Particularly Southern European countries where the crisis hit hardest, have witnessed an important wave of anti-austerity protests. In this paper, we compare Southern European countries where the crisis hit hardest with Northern European countries that were less affected to examine citizens' motivations for engaging in protest and how this relates to attitudes to government, the European Union and feelings of political efficacy. We also examine the role of deprivation, political values, associational membership and social embeddedness for political involvement. In particular, we investigate what drives individuals to participate in protests to pressure politicians to make things change and the extent to which views of government and politicians as well as the European Union in terms of their receptivity to the public impacts on citizens' protest potential. We also examine the role of emotions in this mobilization process and aim to assess whether the factors precipitating citizens' activism are different in countries that have been harder hit by the crisis relative to less affected ones. Our analysis aims to speak to theories in the literature explaining why citizens decide to join demonstrations and suggest new avenues for theorising the relative role of factors in situations of crisis. We test these hypotheses by analysing a unique and novel dataset containing data from over 10,000 protestors from 72 demonstrations (2009-2013). We also analyse a general population dataset collected in 2015 in the context of the LIVEWHAT collaborative European project.

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