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Dynamics of Collective Protest in the U.S. 1960-1980 John McCarthy PSU, Sociology Sarah A. Soule Cornell, Sociology Susan.

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Presentation on theme: "Dynamics of Collective Protest in the U.S. 1960-1980 John McCarthy PSU, Sociology Sarah A. Soule Cornell, Sociology Susan."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dynamics of Collective Protest in the U.S John McCarthy PSU, Sociology Sarah A. Soule Cornell, Sociology Susan Olzak Stanford, Sociology Doug McAdam Stanford, Sociology Description of the theoretical and substantive issues being investigated This project set out to code protest events as reported in newspapers associated with over 15 different issue areas (or social movements) from The goal was to provide the most reliable dataset on protest events in the United States associated with various social movements (or issue areas). To date, we have a completed the data collection and cleaning from and we have finished collection of (we are in the process of cleaning these data). So far, there are well over 20,000 protest events coded in the existing dataset. These events took place all over the United States, so they are not limited to a certain locale. The protest events analyzed in this paper were drawn from daily editions of the New York Times (NYT) between 1960 and For a particular event to be included in our dataset, it must meet three basic criteria. First, since we are interested in collective action, there must be more than one participant at the event. This means that we do not code individual acts of protest, such as self- immolation. Second, the participants must articulate some claim, whether this be a grievance against some target or an expression of support of some target. Finally, the event must have happened in the public sphere for us to include it in our dataset. Thus, we do not include private meetings by social movement actors. We argued in the original proposal that these data could be used to examine a number of different substantive questions including (but not limited to): the diffusion of innovative protest tactics, changes in protest policing, differential confrontational tactical usage, organizational involvement at protest events, and the effects of protest on policy change. Description of the data sources being used This project uses The New York Times (data available online). The data collection and coding took place in two, separate stages. The first stage involved research assistants reading the daily editions of the newspaper and photocopying all events found therein. The second stage involved the content coding these events. Problems for which computer analysis might be appropriate We used only human coders. The most basic issue, of course, is that this was incredibly labor intensive. And, while we constantly performed inter-coder reliability checks, there is always human error to contend with when one uses human coders exclusively. Coding process Our research design has attempted to avoid some of the potential problems with newspaper data by employing several innovations over prior research. Our first innovation is that we, unlike most past scholars, have not used the index to the NYT as a data source, nor have we used it to identify possible events. Instead, we have read each daily edition of the newspaper for entire our period ( ) and we have identified all collective action events reported therein. While far more time consuming than using an index to identify candidate events, this technique allows us to find events that are not obvious from the title of the article (thus may not be caught by looking at the Index). For example, an article that primarily discusses problems with housing conditions in some locale may mention a rent strike or other protest event related to such conditions. Also, this technique allows us to find events that are embedded in an article on a separate event. For example, an article on a series of school desegregation events may make mention of boycotts and other events that are also taking place, sometimes in other locales. Finally, this technique allows us to avoid any possible bias that might be introduced by changes in indexing procedures used by the newspaper. A second innovation over prior research is that we have not sampled from published newspapers within a given period. While a useful method for obtaining a rough indication of the landscape of protest events, sampling over time may introduce biases. For example, while coding only the Monday editions of newspapers may yield a high number of events that took place over weekends, certain types of events (e.g., labor) that are unlikely to take place on weekends may be underestimated. Thus, as noted above, we code events from the daily editions of NYT during this period.


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