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Title Rewarding Contention: Social Activism and Political Capital in Spain
Post date 06/13/2016
C1 Background and Explanation of Rationale

Does activist experience translate into political capital? This project examines the relationship between contentious and electoral politics in times of crisis by investigating the effect of a candidate's social movements background on support for their candidacy for public office, perceptions of their qualifications, character, and ideological position. Using a candidate choice experiment in Spain, I propose to test whether voters reward prior involvement in contentious politics and if so, whether they do so for some social movements but not others. Finally, I aim to unpack the signal that activist experience sends to the voters, providing insight into what drives voters' (dis)approval of activists-turned-politicians.

I argue that there are two ways in which candidate's social movement background influences vote choice. First, activism reduces uncertainty around the candidate's ideal point. More specifically, voters receives better information about where the candidate falls on the ideological spectrum than if relying on party cues alone. This is because activism is a costly (time sacrifice, risk of arrest etc.) and thus credible signal of ideological beliefs. Given that most new social movements, particularly in the Spanish context, such as feminist, anti-austerity, or ecological movements, are left-leaning movements, voters will infer a left-wing position from an activist background.

Second, in addition to an informational channel, there is a character or integrity component, which, unlike the information channel which has differential effects, should increase support for social movements candidates across the political spectrum. I argue that activists are considered more honest because of their lack of association with and opposition to the corrupt establishment, as well as presumed values-based (as opposed to opportunistic or career-oriented) involvement. This distinguishes them from labor union activists who - despite advocacy for social issues and workers' rights - belong to highly institutionalized organizations with close ties to politics and therefore are often grouped together with the establishment as culprits, not victims, of the crisis.

C2 What are the hypotheses to be tested?

Hypothesis 1A: Respondents will place candidates with contentious experience further on the left than candidates from the same party without the social movement experience, including candidates with labor union experience.
Hypothesis 1B: Respondents will be more certain about the ideological placement of activist candidates than other candidates.
This, in turn will influence vote choice:
Hypothesis 1C:
Respondents on the left side of the political spectrum will be more likely to support candidates involved in social movements (believed to be proximate to their own ideal point). In contrast, respondents on the right side of the political spectrum will be less likely to vote for a candidate with a social movements experience (believed to be further away from their own ideal point).
Hypothesis 2: All respondents, regardless of their ideology, will consider activist candidates to be more honest and more likable.
Hypothesis 3: Activist credentials: Sacrifice will strengthen these effects. Activists who were arrested for their involvement in a social movement (relative to those described as having committed time) will be even more likely to receive support of left-wing voters and even less likely to receive support of right-wing voters.

In the atmosphere of declining trust in institutions, parties, and professional politicians, however, voters might simply favor outsiders, regardless of their experience. This would suggest that social movements background provides no additional advantage or carries no additional penalty than simply not being part of the establishment. In this case, we would observe no difference in support for candidates with trade union involvement, business experience, or social movement activism, only between political insiders and outsiders.

Hypothesis 4: Candidates will be rewarded for being a political outsider more than experience, be it political, trade union, business, or even activist.
Hypothesis 5: Crisis effect: Among those respondents who rate the economic situation in Spain as bad or very bad, those who were asked the question at the beginning of the survey (and thus primed to think of the economic crisis) will be more likely to declare intention to vote for political outsiders and social movement activists.

I will also test whether skills gained in social movements organizing are considered transferrable into the political realm. If they are, leaders of social movements should be considered more qualified for political office than rank-and-file members and just as qualified as leaders in business or labor unions.
Hypothesis 6: Leadership effect: Candidates described as having held leadership positions either in the party or in the movement will be rated as more competent/qualified by the respondents. However, leadership in the movement will strengthened the activism effect described in H1C when vote choice is concerned.

C3 How will these hypotheses be tested? *

The study will be conducted in June 2016 in the run-up to the Spanish national election, which takes place on June 26, 2016. I will be working with Survey Sampling International to recruit a sample of 1,000 Spanish adults from SSI's proprietary panels, the core of SSI's online sample, as well as from participants of online communities, social networks, and different websites. Participants are invited via banners, invitations and various types of messaging and then screened for quality before being included in the sample. The survey will be offered on PCs, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. The survey will be hosted and administered in Qualtrics by the researcher.

In analyzing the data, I will follow the estimation technique for conjoint experiments as discussed in Hainmueller et al (2014). Respondent characteristics, which will be considered as moderators of the effects are: 1) ideology and a constructed indicator variable for distance between respondent's ideology and candidate's perceived ideology position (see Hypothesis 1C), 2) assessment of the economic situation in Spain (see Hypothesis 5), 3) party identification and a dummy for a match between respondent's and candidate's party, 4) respondent's protest history (since I expect those with personal protest experience to be more likely to favor activists) and 5) union membership (union members should be more likely to vote for candidates with trade union background). The remaining demographic covariates (gender, age, education, having voted in the last election) will be used only to assess how the sample compares to a nationally representative sample.

C4 Country Spain
C5 Scale (# of Units) 1000
C6 Was a power analysis conducted prior to data collection? No
C7 Has this research received Insitutional Review Board (IRB) or ethics committee approval? Yes
C8 IRB Number IRB16-0778
C9 Date of IRB Approval 5/30/2016; determined that the study meets the criteria for exemption
C10 Will the intervention be implemented by the researcher or a third party? Researchers
C11 Did any of the research team receive remuneration from the implementing agency for taking part in this research? No
C12 If relevant, is there an advance agreement with the implementation group that all results can be published? not provided by authors
C13 JEL Classification(s) not provided by authors