Tag Archives: methodology

Can We Trust China’s Official Statistics?

A major concern of students of Chinese politics is the reliability of the Chinese official statistics, especially those from the township and village levels. The quality of the published data might come with a large question mark. Generally, statistics on current issues are collected by the National Bureau of Statistics on special requests of the Party Central Committee and the State Council. Obviously, a local Party cadre can signify local achievements in order to make a favorable impression on his or her superiors, or exaggerate a particular social problem in order to receive more resources. Because none of this process is likely to be available to the public, the exaggerations or errors made in local statistics would thus be aggregated at the national levels. Continue reading

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The Current State of Protest Event Data

Kalev Leetaru recently mused, while comparing the level of protest surrounding the Arab Spring, whether we could measure with the level of global protest activity at any given time. He answers in the affirmative, suggesting that the project he directs, the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (or GDELT), may be able to give some insight into this. GDELT is based on a huge database of news media reports, cataloging some 2.4 million events. Leetaru uses these data to suggest that the 1980s were more turbulent than the post-Arab Spring era, and that the most contentious era of worldwide protest in the past 35 years was that of the controversy around the 2006 anti-Islam Danish cartoon.

Scholars of social movements may puzzle over this. It seems unlikely that an isolated incident in Denmark could trump such watershed events such as the fall of the Soviet bloc and the events which took place in Tiananmen Square 25 years ago. It raises the question — what is going on with the “cutting-edge” of protest event data? Continue reading

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Beyond the Repression-Dissent Nexus: Putting Violence in Its Place

By Dana M. Moss

Studies of mobilization have long been preoccupied with understanding the effects of repression on protest. However, as Mark Lichbach remarks, the search for models—whether linear, U-shaped, S-shaped, or otherwise—leaves scholars “forever correlating the total aggregate level of one output (government repression) with the total aggregate level of the other output (opposition activity)” (1987: 288). Furthermore, conceptual and analytical inconsistencies persist; aggregated event counts and indicators denoting low, moderate, and high levels of repression vary based on what type of crackdowns “count” as severe and have been accounted for in the media or NGO reports (Davenport 2007).

Because the question “does repression increase or decrease protest?” has dominated the research agenda, I suggest that we revisit our orienting questions. For example, what kinds of repression do activists perceive as severe? Which governmental agents, entities, and affiliates do the repressing, and what does this mean for the short-term outcomes of movement-government standoffs? Which social movements are most at risk for violent repression?  And how does the character of a regime shape its propensity for violence?  In an effort to expand our conceptualization of the repression-dissent nexus in potentially fruitful and specific ways, I outline several suggestions below. Continue reading

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Movement Success and Failure: Looking both at “Ones” and “Zeros”

By Marco Giugni

As a number of observers have argued at different points in time, the study of the outcomes and consequences of social movements has long been a neglected area within the social movement literature. This is no longer true. Today we can count on a wide range of valuable works which have improved our knowledge of why and how protest may lead to political, social, or cultural change. This body of works, however, presents a major shortcoming: they have most often focused on movement success, while being silent on movement failure. Yet, one of the most well-known books looking (also) at the political consequences of social movements, written by Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward about 35 years ago, was subtitled “Why They Succeed, How They Fail.” But students of social movements and collective action do not seem to have received their message. Continue reading

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