An Organizational Explanation for Anti-American Protests

Apparently, colleagues of mine at MIT reacted to the most recent anti-American protests in the Middle East as any person would: by opening up statistical software packages. While my first instinct was to look at other’s work, theirs was to see whether existing data held predictive power to identify where protests erupted to date. Nick Miller and Chad Hazlett, writing on the Foreign Policy website, find “countries’ wealth, growth rate, unemployment, age structure, state capacity, civil liberties, democracy level, and the percentage of the population that is Muslim were all utterly unhelpful in predicting where protests would occur.” Instead, they argue for an organizational explanation: “Accounting for all the variables listed above, we find that protests occur most frequently in countries that had any reported demonstrations during the Arab Spring movement (a measure of recent mobilization), have an Islamist political party, and/or have organized radical militant organizations.” They admit that none of these variables are causally identified; in other words, it is possible or even likely that other unobserved variables lead to the emergence of both Islamist political parties and anti-American protests. But I still think it’s an interesting finding that these measures of organizational presence dramatically outweigh the explanatory value embedded in huge social factors like wealth, youth population, and regime type.


3 thoughts on “An Organizational Explanation for Anti-American Protests

  1. Nice follow up Chris. The last post left me wanting for an explanation! This finding is indeed interesting. Identification here seems impossible. But perhaps we can proceed in a disciplined way. Perhaps comparing the different organizational variables would shed some light on the plausibility of the argument. Previous mobilization seems the most problematic from an identification point of view. It would be nice to see a table with a set of models including the coefficients for all the covariates you mentioned and different columns alternating these three organizational treatments.

  2. Pingback: Do Elite Fights Lead to Anti-Americanism? Maybe. | The Smoke-Filled Room

  3. Did the research look at the intensity of protest? There would seem to be big differences between, say, the protests in Libya (small even if violent, and promptly countered by opposing expressions) and those in Egypt (small relative to protests over domestic issues, but continuing). And I find it odd that the one thing the research cited does not look at is whether the population in question has reasons for being anti-American.

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