How do crises paralyze and activate? The impact of dissatisfaction on European patterns of participation

Anders Ejrnæs*, Silas Harrebye

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This study examines recent developments and variations in extra-parliamentary activities–such as signing petitions, displaying political support, demonstrating, and boycotting products across 15 European countries. Using fixed effects regression analysis to investigate data from the European Social Survey, rounds 1–8 (2002–2016), we find that patterns of participation have significantly changed over time. We draw on theories on how participation is fundamentally motivated by feelings of dissatisfaction, including grievance theory and the civic voluntary model. Our study’s results include two findings of particular significance. First, in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2008, there was a perceptible increase in protest participation, but with a striking delay effect. Second, we identified an engagement gap as we show that in times of crisis the gap between satisfied and dissatisfied citizens widens, in terms of who actively participates. Further to these findings, we conclude that James C. Davies’ J-curve hypothesis concerning collective revolutionary response, needs revision, and we posit a synthesis of critical and more optimistic perspectives regarding the democratic impact that crises can have on our democratic participation.

Original languageEnglish
Journal European Politics and Society
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)597-616
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Democracy
  • activism
  • crisis
  • dissatisfaction
  • movement
  • participation

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