Unknown Unknowns: How Uncertainty Undermines Protest in Russia

Thursday, July 13, 2017
Gilbert Scott Conference Room - 251 (University of Glasgow)
Samuel Greene , School of Global Affairs, King's College London
Maxim Ananyev , Department of Political Science, UCLA
What impact do unexpressed opinions have on contentious politics? In most studies of political opinions, researchers focus on the (relatively) unambiguous categories of ‘yes’ and ‘no’, ‘approve’ and ‘disapprove’, and so on; less often do researchers focus on the other option available to respondents, i.e. to express no opinion at all. In this paper, we explore the phenomenon of non-response to direct political questions in Russia. Drawing on nationally and sub-nationally representative surveys, as well as on a database of protest activity from the 2011/12 electoral protest wave, the paper suggests that using expressed uncertainty as a way of avoiding open dissent may act more powerfully to suppress protest than actual open support for the incumbent regime. By depriving citizens of the ability to know where they stand vis-à-vis prevailing opinions in their community, the paper argues, a prevalence of unexpressed opinions in a given community may make it more difficult for disaffected citizens to make a reasoned decision about whether to protest.
  • ananyev-greene_glasgow_final.pdf (856.3 kB)