At the 2009 ECPR General Conference the Protest Survey network organizes a special panel on the issue of protest surveys. More information can be found here.
Here is the abstract of the panel:
The study of political protest and contentious politics has been mainly drawing upon population surveys (political science) or on detailed case studies of social movement (sociology). Recently, a new way of tackling political protest participation has been used increasingly more: questioning participants in specific protest events on the spot of via postal surveys. Remarkably, the boom of protest survey based studies has not lead to a scientific debate about the protest survey method, its strengths and weaknesses. Social scientists seem to use the method without learning from each other and there is no accumulation of knowledge; a thorough methodological reflection is entirely lacking. This panel wants to spark the discussion about the method of surveying people in the act of protesting. It assesses the pros and cons of this innovative research method and takes stock of the existing approaches. More specifically the panel focuses on three questions and we welcome papers addressing any of these matters: What can protest surveys teach us about protest participation that other methodological approaches cannot? How should protest surveys be carried out to get a representative sample and high response rates? How can we test the validity and representativity of the evidence produced by protest surveys? Apart from methodological papers, the panel also welcomes substantial contributions about protest participation drawing on protest survey evidence.
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