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Reevaluating the Middle-Class Protest Paradigm: A Case-Control Study of Democratic Protest Coalitions in Russia

Reevaluating the Middle-Class Protest Paradigm: A Case-Control Study of Democratic Protest Coalitions in Russia

by Bryn RosenfeldUniversity of Southern California

A large literature expects rising middle classes to promote democracy. However, few studies provide direct evidence on this group in nondemocratic settings. This article focuses on politically important differentiation within the middle classes, arguing that middle-class growth in state-dependent sectors weakens potential coalitions in support of democratization. I test this argument using surveys conducted at mass demonstrations in Russia and detailed population data. I also present a new approach to studying protest based on case-control methods from epidemiology. The results reveal that state-sector professionals were significantly less likely to mobilize against electoral fraud, even after controlling for ideology. If this group had participated at the same rate as middle-class professionals from the private sector, I estimate that another 90,000 protesters would have taken to the streets. I trace these patterns of participation to the interaction of individual resources and selective incentives. These findings have implications for authoritarian stability and democratic transitions.

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American Political Science Review / © American Political Science Association 2017 / https://doi.org/10.1017/S000305541700034X / Published online: 11 September 2017