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University of Sydney - Colloquium Series

  • University of Sydney Room 441 Social Sciences Building, A02 Darlington Australia (map)

Dr Sarah Cameron talks at the University of Sydney's Department of Government and International Relations Colloquium on Citizens and the Crash: Political Protest and the Global Financial Crisis in Cross-National Comparison.

How did the global financial crisis—the greatest economic crisis since the depression of the 1930s—affect trends in political protest? Although the world saw several large mobilizations in response to the crisis, including Occupy Wall Street and the Indignados movement in Spain, we know little about how economic shocks affect protest participation trends more broadly.

Existing approaches to explain protest behaviour lead to competing predictions as to how protest would be affected by a major crisis. According to grievance theories, those most affected by the crisis would be mobilized to participate in protest. Resource approaches, however, suggest that those better off in society, participate more in protest, due to the time, skills and resources required to take part. As more citizens faced material hardship during the crisis, this would lead to the prediction that participation would have declined following the crisis. The political opportunities approach meanwhile, would suggest that government policy responses to the crisis, rather than the crisis in and of itself, would mobilize protest.

To test these different theories in the context of the global financial crisis, the paper examines individual level protest participation data from the World Values Survey in 18 countries, alongside protest event data from the Integrated Crisis Early Warning System (ICEWS). The paper finds that individual level participation declined following the crisis in countries affected to a greater extent, lending support to the resources model. Meanwhile, analysis of protest events demonstrates that there were mobilizations in response to government policy responses to the crisis.


Dr Sarah Cameron is the Electoral Integrity Project Manager and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. A comparative political scientist, her research examines the relationship between economic conditions and political behaviour, attitudes towards democracy, and electoral integrity. She has contributed to several major studies on elections including the Australian Election Study and the Comparative Cross-National Electoral Research project. She is the co-editor of the forthcoming book, Electoral Integrity in America: Securing Democracy (Oxford University Press, with Pippa Norris and Thomas Wynter).