DP14385 Social Groups and the Effectiveness of Protests

Author(s): Marco Battaglini, Rebecca Morton, Eleonora Patacchini
Publication Date: February 2020
Keyword(s): Petitions, Public Protests, Social groups
JEL(s): D72, D78
Programme Areas: Public Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14385

We present an informational theory of public protests, according to which public protests allow citizens to aggregate privately dispersed information and signal it to the policy maker. The model predicts that information sharing of signals within social groups can facilitate information aggregation when the social groups are sufficiently large even when it is not predicted with individual signals. We use experiments in the laboratory and on Amazon Mechanical Turk to test these predictions. We find that information sharing in social groups significantly affects citizens' protest decisions and as a consequence mitigates the effects of high conflict, leading to greater efficiency in policy makers' choices. Our experiments highlight that social media can play an important role in protests beyond simply a way in which citizens can coordinate their actions; and indeed that the information aggregation and the coordination motives behind public protests are intimately connected and cannot be conceptually separated.