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Protests by the young and digitally restless: the means, motives, and opportunities of anti-government demonstrations

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Inspired by the recent wave of global protests, this paper seeks to empirically investigate the role and interaction of a burgeoning young population and the penetration of information and communications technology (ICT) in explaining the onset and diffusion of anti-government demonstrations. Employing a cross-national global analysis between the years 1995 and 2011, we find that youth bulges and ICT affect protest activities in a more complicated and nuanced manner than the conventional wisdom suggests. The proliferation of anti-government protests is multiplicatively heightened when the enhanced technological means of protest are fused with the structural and opportunity-based conditions often witnessed in countries with large youth bulges. In contrast, we do not find that either of our variables of interest affects the probability of the outbreak of protests, which is rather explained by more contextual factors. A nuance in our results pertaining to the prevalence of protests suggests that it is the proliferation of technology that is more important than demographic factors. This suggests that those communication mediums, more likely to be used by younger generations, have worked to successfully amplify calls for mobilization even when those cohorts are otherwise smaller in size.
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Keywords: ICTs; politics; social movements; young people

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Politics and International Relations, SIPA, Florida International University, Miami, FL, 33199, USA 2: Department of Linguistics and Languages, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

Publication date: November 26, 2014

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