Using a new dataset, we analyze four years of political protest events in US state capitals, in order to specify the processes and possibilities for collective action at the state level. Drawing from resource mobilization/political process theory, we test hypotheses regarding density of activist communities, political culture, social capital, administrative capacities, and political processes in affecting the number of protests, rallies, and demonstrations directed at state government. We find that the most important factors include the density of contentious communities of individuals (specifically university students), political culture, Democratic Party control of government, and the option to use direct legislation (a negative effect), while administrative capacity, generalized social capital, and party competition have no effects. We also find strong positive baseline effects for the population size of the state, the relative importance of the capital compared to other cities, and urbanization. We argue that these findings illustrate how aggregate levels of state-level political protest arise out of collective action processes and the mobilization of small groups, as mediated through stable cultural repertoires of political tactics and moderated by certain political opportunities and processes.
This publication is Hauser Center Working Paper No. 13. The Hauser Center Working Paper Series was launched during the summer of 2000. The Series enables the Hauser Center to share with a broad audience important works-in-progress written by Hauser Center scholars and researchers.