The Organizational Roots of Political Activism: Field Experiments on Creating a Relational Context

Hahrie Han - @hahriehan

by Hahrie Han, University of California, Santa Barbara

Abstract: “This article examines the role that democratic organizations play in fostering political activism in America. Activists make democracy work by attending meetings, engaging others, trying to make their voice heard, and participating in myriad other ways. Yet, we still need a deeper understanding of what role organizations play in cultivating that activism. The article presents data from three field experiments showing that creating a relational organizational context makes targets more likely to sign petitions, recruit others, and attend meetings. The article argues that civic organizations can have a powerful impact on activism. In doing so, it introduces a new set of variables related to organizational context to consider in understanding the sources of participation. The article thus extends a burgeoning body of experimental research on the social bases of voter turnout by examining not only voting but other forms of activism that are increasingly common modes of citizen involvement in the twenty-first century.”

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American Political Science Review is political science’s premier scholarly research journal, providing peer-reviewed articles and review essays from subfields throughout the discipline. Areas covered include political theory, American politics, public policy, public administration, comparative politics, and international relations. APSR has published continuously since 1906.