Do Institutional Factors Affect Protest?:
A Cross-National Time-Series Analysis of 17 European Democracies
from 1980 through 1995
Department of Political Science
University of Kansas
Abstract: What factors cause protests? Scholars have conducted cross-national analysis on
determinants of protest. However, their studies have been paid less attention on
institutional factors. This paper examines the importance of institutional factors in
accounting for protest in 17 Western European democracies from 1980 through 1995. To
deal with cross-sectional time-series count data, this paper uses Generalized Estimating
Equation (GEE) model with negative binomial distribution. Results show that institutional
factors do matter in explaining the causes of protest. Especially, electoral system is
strongly related with the number of protests: Proportional Representation (PR) system
really decreases the number of protests more than any other electoral systems.
Prepared for delivery at the annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association.
New Orleans, Louisiana, January 6-8, 2005.
Protest is all around in Western European countries. In his recent book, Contention
and Democracy in Europe, 1650-2000, Tilly (2004) maintains that democracy of Western
European countries can be explained by various levels of protest and political dissent.
According to him, democracy emerges contingently from political struggle in the medium
run rather than being a product either of age-old character traits or of short-term
constitutional innovations (9).
Historically, protest and collective action were considered as the last desperate acts of
the public, arising from feelings of frustration and deprivation (Dalton 2002, 59). Protest
was an exit for those who socially underprivileged and repressed minorities. In the context
of Western European democracies, however, the pattern of protest has changed
substantially. Dalton (2002) points out the