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Don't Vote for Them: The Effects of the Spanish Indignant Movement on Attitudes about Voting

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This article investigates the recent so-called Spanish Revolution of 2011 with a view to understanding what it reveals about the current relationship between protest and electoral modes of participation. Theories of “disaffeccted radicalism” that grew up following the 1960s period of civil unrest strongly advocated the view that protest activity boosted electoral abstention. More recent work on protest, however, has pointed to its “normalization” and linkage to more conventional modes of participation. The Spanish case of 15M constitutes a useful new test of the two theories given that it mixed an explicit rejection of the choices voters faced with a criticism of political apathy. I examine the validity of each argument using a four-wave online panel survey and fixed-effects model to unravel how engagement in the 15M protest activity affected Spaniards' attitudes towards voting. The results provide fresh support for the normalization argument about a convergence of electoral and non-electoral types of activity. What is more, protest here seems to have a socialization effect that leads people to look at elections in a more positive manner.
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Don't Vote for Them: The
Effects of the Spanish Indignant
Movement on Attitudes about
Voting
Carol Galaisa
a University of Montreal, Canada
Published online: 26 Feb 2014.
To cite this article: Carol Galais (2014) Don't Vote for Them: The Effects of the Spanish
Indignant Movement on Attitudes about Voting, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and
Parties, 24:3, 334-350, DOI: 10.1080/17457289.2014.887089
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17457289.2014.887089
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Don’t Vote for Them: The Effects of the
Spanish Indignant Movement on
Attitudes about Voting
CAROL GALAIS
University of Montreal, Canada
ABSTRACT This article investigates the recent so-called Spanish Revolution of 2011 with a
view to understanding what it reveals about the current relationship between protest and elec-
toral modes of participation. Theories of “disaffeccted radicalism” that grew up following the
1960s period of civil unrest strongly advocated the view that protest activity boosted electoral
abstention. More recent work on protest, however, has pointed to its “normalization” and
linkage to more conventional modes of participation. The Spanish case of 15M constitutes a
useful new test of the two theories given that it mixed an explicit rejection of the choices
voters faced with a criticism of political apathy. I examine the validity of each argument
using a four-wave online panel survey and fixed-effects model to unravel how engagement
in the 15M protest activity affected Spaniards’ attitudes towards voting. The results
provide fresh support for the normalization argument about a convergence of electoral and
non-electoral types of activity. What is more, protest here seems to have a socialization
effect that leads people to look at elections in a more positive manner.
1. Introduction
Despite being two of the most important forms of political participation, studies that
have examined the interaction of electoral behaviour and involvement in protest and
social movements are rare (Brown et al., 2011; Cain et al., 2003; Guillion, 2009). For
at least two decades after the protests emerged during the 1970s there were very few
studies that considered protest to be linked with conventional participation or the pol-
itical orientations that lead to it. Indeed the widely held view was that the two formed
separate and non-interrelated spheres of action.
As time moved on and protest action became increasingly commonplace, interpret-
ations of its relationship with institutionalized forms of participation relaxed and gave
rise to the “normalization theory” which argued that protest had become part of
everyday politics and was largely compatible with acts of conventional participation,
Correspondence Address: Carol Galais, Universite
´de Montre
´al, Political Sciences, Faculte
´des Arts et des
Sciences, C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville Montre
´al, Montre
´al, Que
´bec, H3C 3J7 Canada. Email:
carolgalais@gmail.com
Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 2014
Vol. 24, No. 3, 334 350, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17457289.2014.887089
#2014 Elections, Public Opinion & Parties
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including voting. Research on the interrelationship between these domains, however,
remained limited. This gap, as McAdam and Tarrow (2010) argue, is unfortunate
since there are clearly many ways in which social movements may affect the
dynamics and outcomes of an election. For instance, a social movement may itself
become a political party. On a less dramatic note, it may introduce new forms of col-
lective action that are mimicked by parties, or it may force parties to engage in elec-
toral mobilization. Finally, such movements may affect how citizens view the merit
and importance of elections and their willingness to become engaged. This last effect,
however, is still to be proven.
Similarly, whether the “normalization” perspective still holds after the radical
anti-globalization protest that took place at the turn of the millennium and contin-
ued with recent mobilizations triggered by the economic crisis is clearly a question
for empirical study. This is particularly so given the anti-establishment outlook of
these movements and their cynicism towards politicians and the electoral process.
One likely challenger to the normalization thesis can be found in the case of the
Spanish Indignant, also known as the 15M movement after its first massive
demonstration that occurred on 15 May 2011. From its very beginnings, media
pundits, politicians and also some scholars warned that its anti-system
message could well lead to a reduction in turnout in the forthcoming local and
general elections. However, alongside its criticisms of the current system it also
issued a critique or challenge to voter apathy which might have countered its nega-
tive effects.
The purpose of this article is thus to investigate the impact of 15M on electoral
participation by examining the extent to which involvement affected individuals’
levels of support for the electoral process. In doing so, as well as testing the
conventional wisdom of normalization in a new context, I seek to present a
new understanding of the contemporary interplay between protest and electoral
politics.
The article begins with a review of the existing literature that has examined the
relationship of protest and voting and particularly how the former influences the
attitudes that affect voting. Next, the background of the 15M movement is provided,
along with details about its disposition towards the electoral process. Here it is argued
that although 15M used protest repertoire actions and played on individuals’ feelings
of political disaffection it also articulated the idea that it was important for citizens to
be engaged in politics by all means. How then did this apparent contradiction play out
among those that supported 15M? Did 15M in fact bolster the democratic belief that
voting is a moral obligation? To investigate these questions I use data from a
four-wave online panel survey that sampled Spanish Internet users between 16 and
44 years of age. These data allow for a comparison of how 15M activists and
non-activists viewed the notion that it is one’s civic duty to vote and their reported
probabilities of voting in the general election. The analysis is conducted using a
fixed-effects estimation technique and confirms that, ceteris paribus, taking part in
the 15M boosted individuals’ sense of civic duty and self-reported probability of
voting.
Don’t Vote for Them 335
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2. The Link between Protest and Voting
The protests of May 1968 were crucial in the development of the argument that
protest constituted a threat to representative institutions (Norris et al., 2006). A
series of claims about “relative deprivation” and “disaffected” or “anti-system radic-
alism” grew up after these events that viewed the protestors as explicitly hostile
towards conventional modes of democratic engagement (Gurr, 1970). Indeed the pro-
tests were ultimately seen as threatening the traditional governance mechanisms of
Western democracies by overloading the system with demands that elites ultimately
could not meet (Crozier et al., 1975). From this perspective, joining a protest entailed
(and could itself even trigger) a set of political orientations critical to different
elements of the political system. Following this line of argument, the work of Fen-
drich (1977) linked taking part in the US civil rights movement in the mid-1960s
to the expression of more radical attitudes and leftist behaviour. Sherkat and
Blocker (1997) similarly showed that past activism was connected to more liberal
orientations and higher levels of laicism. Jennings and Niemi (1981) demonstrated
that joining protests in the US in the mid-1960s and 1970s widened the pre-existing
attitudinal differences between protesters and non-protesters (Jennings, 1987).
Similar patterns were observed in West Germany where radical protest was found
to negatively affect levels of political support and efficacy. Peaceful protest,
however, had little effect on these orientations (Finkel, 1987).
Despite the obvious implication that protest would bear little and even possibly a
negative relationship to voting, the impact of protest on electorally relevant attitudes
and behaviour was not closely scrutinized. Indeed, one study did claim that protests
against the Korean and Vietnam wars led to abstention in American elections (Schrei-
ber, 1975), but the individual mechanisms behind this effect were never explored.
Rather, it was largely assumed that during this “protest era” (Hooghe, 2003), politi-
cally engaged and sophisticated citizens incorporated electoral abstention to the
protest repertoire as a way to express dissent (Kleinhenz, 1995).
During the 1990s a new understanding of protest emerged that claimed it had “nor-
malized” and become a legitimate and widespread mode of political expression
(Inglehart, 1990, Norris, 2002; Putnam, 2000; Tarrow, 1998; Van Aelst & Walgrave,
2001). According to these scholars, protest is not a substitute for institutional partici-
pation (i.e. voting), but complements and extends it. A number of empirical studies
subsequently corroborated the similarities between conventional participants and pro-
testers (Dalton & Van Sickle, 2005; Norris et al., 2005). A key finding in this respect
was that being registered to vote had a positive impact on the likelihood of protesting
(Norris, 2002; Schussman & Soule, 2005). This provided strong support for the idea
that voting and protest are compatible and not conflicting.
The idea that protest constitutes a “normal” mode of political expression has thus
achieved something of a consensus, although studies supporting this view have been
largely confined to established democracies. The work that has been done among
newer democracies reveals a more mixed picture. While some evidence of normali-
zation has been found among third wave and developing democracies such as
336 C. Galais
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Argentina and Bolivia (Moseley & Moreno, 2010), in Brazil the link between past
protest and electoral abstention has been demonstrated quite clearly (Power &
Roberts, 1995). Questions have also been raised about the compatibility of protest
and vote in Africa (Ajambo, 2007) as well as ex-communist countries (White &
McAllister, 2004).
As such there does seem some debate as to how well the notion of normalization
applies to protest in “younger” democracies (Bernhagen & Marsh, 2007: 65). This
debate has gained further fuel from the recent protest activity emerging in Southern
European nations in the wake of the global economic recession. Indeed, both Italy
and Greece two of the countries most affected by the economic crisis have
lately experienced significant decreases in the turnout rates of their general elections.
1
These elections were held after harsh protests against austerity policies, which were
seen as signalling a deeper political malaise against the political system itself,
especially in the Greek case (Verney, 2012). While clearly not definitive, these par-
ticipatory patterns are suggestive that a body of disaffected citizens are emerging who
are willing to express their views via extra-parliamentary actions but not through
voting.
3. The Case of 15M
The case of 15M offers a very useful new opportunity to examine the question of
whether normalization theory applies in newer and less established democracies.
Spain belongs to the third wave of democratization, as described by Huntington
(1991), and seems to be one of these young democracies in which important differ-
ences persist between traditional participants and protesters. The latter hold more pol-
itically engaged but critical attitudes when compared to conventional participants
(Ganuza & France
´s, 2008). The specificities of protesters might have been accentu-
ated by the 15M discourse, which built upon Spaniards’ political disaffection. Indeed,
Spain stands out among the Western democracies for its high levels of political dis-
affection, cynicism and anti-party feelings (Torcal, 2006).
In terms of its timing, both historically and in the electoral cycle, the case of 15M in
Spain also offers a particularly useful opportunity to test whether recent protest events
signal a move away from the normalization of this type of activity. The 15M move-
ment is a representative example of the global unrest that encompassed the earlier
Arab Spring in the Middle East and the subsequent Occupy movement that started
later in September in New York City’s Zuccotti Park. It also served as the immediate
antecedent to several massive mobilizations in Italy, France, Germany or Mexico.
2
Its
formation and evolution coincided with two sets of elections (local and national)
throughout the Spanish territory allowing us to examine directly how engagement
with it affected individuals’ views on elections and voting.
A final aspect of the 15M that enhances its qualities as a critical test of the normal-
ization trend is the youth of those involved. Arguments about a recent decoupling of
protest and electoral activities rest in large part on the youth of those involved.
3
Even
among those advocating the normalization thesis there is an acceptance that
Don’t Vote for Them 337
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conventional politics has lost its appeal for youngsters. New cohorts are less inclined
to obey and take part in formal politics, but are more prone to be attracted by direct
forms of participation (Dalton, 2007), especially extra-parliamentary politics and
protest (Stolle & Cruz, 2005,2008). Given the Indignant’s appeal to younger citizens
we might expect its supporters to be more inclined to reject “traditional” political rep-
resentation and embrace protest instead.
To sum up, therefore, despite widespread acceptance of normalization theory, there
are a number of reasons to believe that recent protests in the newer democracies of
Southern Europe and Spain in particular may be countering the trend towards the inte-
gration of conventional and unconventional modes of political activity. This article
tackles this question directly by examining how involvement in the Spanish 15M
movement affected individuals’ belief that voting is a civic duty. Seminal works
on electoral behaviour have shown the importance of this belief as a key driver
behind the decision to vote (Blais, 2000; Campbell et al., 1954; Downs, 1957;
Gerber & Green, 2000; Riker & Ordeshook, 1968). Thus I look at this important
prior political orientation, as well as citizens’ reported likelihood to vote.
The Indignant movement first emerged in the spring of 2011. It grew out of dissa-
tisfaction with several new policy measures that were introduced that year including
the Sinde law which punished illegal online file-sharing (Hughes, 2011) and the set
of austerity measures to deal with the economic crisis. University students already
angered by the implementation of the European Higher Education Area in 2008
were further enraged by these initiatives as were a wider set of organizations and indi-
viduals worried about the effects of social spending cuts. The discontent resulted in the
establishment of a group calling itself Real Democracy Now (known by its initials in
Spanish as DRY). DRY called for a series of demonstrations in 50 Spanish cities on 15
May, under the slogan “For a real democracy now, we are not merchandise in the hands
of bankers and politicians”. It is estimated that about 130,000 people across Spain
joined the protest. Two days later the demonstrations were replicated and led to
night-time camps in about 30 cities including the main squares of Madrid (Puerta
del Sol) and Barcelona (Plac¸a Catalunya). Even though the camps only lasted about
two months, the movement itself remained active for more than a year (for more
details on the evolution of the events related to the movement, see Figure 1).
From the start, the relationship between this civic movement and the electoral
process was somewhat ambiguous. The organizers themselves claimed not to
adhere to any particular ideology or to support a specific party. The mottos they
adopted were explicitly critical of the electoral system and the main parties including
“they call it democracy, and it’s not”, or “the Partido Popular (PP) and the Partido
Socialista Obrero Espan
˜ol (PSOE) are the same”. Other slogans attacked politicians
directly, calling them “thieves” and urging the public to “kick them out”, making the
accusation that “they don’t represent us”. The first worries about the likely effect of
the movement on election turnout were raised on 19 May by the President of the
Regional Electoral Committee of Madrid, who declared the protests illegal. His
fears were echoed in several national and international newspapers with headlines
such as “Who’s Afraid of Abstention?”
4
338 C. Galais
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Despite the perceived anti-electoral tone of their message, there does seem to be
some grounds to suggest that their goal was less nihilistic that these stories suggest.
For example, those behind the “do not vote for them” slogan made it clear on
several occasions that they were asking electors not to vote for those political
parties that had approved the Sinde Law and to instead support smaller parties to
enter parliament and overturn it (Fuster, 2012: 390).
5
Similarly, 15M spokespersons
claimed that they did not mean to encourage abstention.
6
This claim is supported by
the fact that 15M messages were partly inspired in Ste
´phane Hessel’s Time for
Outrage!,
7
a short booklet that praises outrage as a revolutionary force but also
strongly attacks indifference. The fact that DRY and the campers despised political
indifference during two electoral campaigns clearly conveyed a disapproval of pol-
itical apathy that, in an electoral context, could have been interpreted as a disap-
proval of electoral abstention. Certainly the first reports from the 2011 local
elections suggested the effect had not been negative. Turnout was recorded as
66%, which was actually three points higher than in the former municipal elections
in 2007.
8
The movement did not dissolve immediately after the local elections. Massive
demonstrations, building occupations and marches lasted the entire summer
leading up to the date of general elections on 20 November (20N from here on).
Despite this continuation their prominence in the media receded quite rapidly after
May. Figure 2 shows this by reporting the number of online news stories per
month during 2011 that mentioned two different combinations of keywords referring
to the 15M movement.
9
Despite the evidence that voter turnout rates had not fallen in the local elections,
suspicions about the impact of the Indignant on abstention in the 20N general election
Figure 1. 15M movement timeline (in 2011).
Source: elaborated by the author.
Don’t Vote for Them 339
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continued. The movement maintained its harsh line against the political system and
political elites and it was again widely expected this would discourage electors
from showing up at the poll stations. The Spanish conservative newspaper El
Mundo, for instance, stated on its front page the day preceding the 20N general elec-
tion: “the indignant take Sol (Madrid’s main square) and call for abstention”. This
perception was reinforced by the fact that some splinter groups from the movement
released manifestos calling for active abstention.
10
As in the local elections, however,
at no time did DRY actively encourage people not to vote.
11
Indeed one sector of the
movement launched a campaign “for the state of permanent participation” and an
online initiative “#aritmetica20N” which recommended voting for the third
party in each district.
In contrast to the local elections, however, participation rates in the national elec-
tions lent support to those who had feared greater abstention following the 15M
protests. The outcome itself saw an absolute majority given to the conservative
party and increased the number of parties present in the parliament, especially
left-wing parties. Turnout, however, fell from a total of 74% of electors in 2008
to 69% in 2011. There was also a slight increase in blank votes (+0.36 points,
making a total of 1.37% in 2011) and a 100% increment in the proportion of
invalid votes, which reached an unprecedented 1.29% in 2011. Whether this was
due to the Indignant, however, remains the subject of some debate.
12
From the per-
spective of the voting behaviour literature, given that the electoral outcome was
clearly predictable and the competitiveness of the race was low, one could argue
that turnout was actually higher than would otherwise have been the case (Franklin,
2004).
Based on the particular circumstances surrounding 15M activities there are also
reasons to expect the movement fostered increased attention to the electoral
process itself. Much of the movement discourse focused on complaints about the
lack of voter choice and placed the spotlight on elections. Through their involvement
Figure 2. Number of online news referring to 15M movement in 2011.
Source: elaborated by the author using Google news statistics. Keyword search limited to
Spanish territory and media.
340 C. Galais
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in the demonstrations, several million people were exposed to political discussion,
collective dynamics, deliberation and dissent, many for the first time. These activities
are known to increase individuals’ levels of political competence (Andersen &
Hansen, 2007; Luskin et al., 2002). Therefore, this process may even go beyond
the normalization of protest: the perceived importance of voting may actually have
increased for protesters as compared to before they joined the movement.
4. Research Design and Data
This study investigates these questions about the short and longer term impact of the
15M on participants’ electoral behaviours and attitudes. I do so using an online panel
survey of Spanish citizens between 16 and 44 years old. The four waves of the panel
were conducted in November and December 2010, May 2011, November 2011 and
May 2012, respectively. Thus, the second and third waves took place just before the
local elections on 22 May and before the general election on 20 November,
respectively.
13
Before presenting our analysis I acknowledge and discuss some of the limitations
of the sample on which it is based. First, and regarding the representativeness of the
sample, the online mode of the survey means that only Internet users are included,
although the number out of scope is quite small within this age group.
14
Second,
the sample encounters the problem of attrition that is common to all panel surveys,
with every wave becoming less representative than the previous.
15
Although we do
retain a fairly large N (1717 individuals) by the final wave, the decreasing sample
size means that inferences from successive waves should be made with caution.
Furthermore, the age of the respondents entails that the results lack generalizability
to the entire Spanish population. However, given that young people were heavily
involved in 15M then this bias may actually work in favour of this social agent
since we would expect to find healthy rates of participation in the movement in the
sample. Furthermore this group constitute a population of considerable interest for
scholars of electoral and non-electoral participation given their higher rates of absten-
tion and interest in more direct and expressive modes of political engagement.
The main independent variable is whether the respondent took part in 15M activi-
ties. This was measured through a two-part retrospective question included in the
third and fourth wave of the panel survey that took place in November 2011 and
May 2012 respectively. Respondents were first asked whether or not they had
heard about the movement 97.5% of the respondents had done so in wave 3 and
98% in wave 4. They were then asked “from May 2011 on, have you participated
in any of the demonstrations, camps, marches or protests of this movement?” Just
under one in five (18.7% of the sample, N¼360) answered “yes” to this question
in the third wave and this increased slightly in wave 4 (23%, N¼387) without adjust-
ing for attrition.
16
These numbers are actually only slightly inflated compared with
the estimates drawn from a random probability sample conducted at the end of
2011 through to early 2012.
17
This comparability gives us greater confidence in
the robustness of the findings given the limitations noted above. Overall a total of
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492 people in the sample had taken part in a 15M protest. From here onward those
individuals participating in 15M are referred to as activists and those that did not
as non-activists.
The dependent variables were two-fold. The first was an indicator of the likelihood
that the respondent would vote in the upcoming national election and was measured
on a 0 10 scale.
18
The second measured agreement with the statement that one has a
duty to vote.
19
The question followed Blais and Achen’s (2010) logic to minimize
any social desirability bias and overestimation of the phenomenon.
20
The analysis was conducted using a linear fixed-effects model which took full
advantage of the panel structure of the data to determine the impact of joining
15M protest on the evolution of the two voting variables. Fixed-effects models are
ideal for this type of study since they control for the average differences in pre-exist-
ing observable and unobservable predictors of voting at the individual level such as
interest in politics, socialization history and education levels and so isolate the effects
of the time-variant variable of interest, i.e. participation in 15M activities.
21
Of course
some time-variant factors may have played a role either in the engagement with the
Indignant or in the evolution of attitudes towards voting. Hence the model includes
controls for perceptions of the economic situation (personal, current, retrospective
and prospective), exposure to media and political information and, finally, govern-
ment and opposition evaluations.
22
5. Analyses
Figures 3 and 4report the changes across the four panel waves in the levels of the two
dependent variables for activists and non-activists. With respect to civic duty, a t-test
shows that the means are not significantly different between the two types of actor at
Figure 3. Evolution of the average levels of duty to vote for 15M activists and non-activists.
342 C. Galais
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any of the four time points. Willingness to vote, however, does show a divergence
after wave one, with activists becoming significantly more likely to endorse the state-
ment in waves 2 to 4.
The initial comparisons, while interesting, are not very conclusive in that the
presence or absence of differences between the two groups may be due to pre-exist-
ing differences in the socio-demographic or attitudinal profile of activists and non-
activists. A stricter test would be to compare two groups of citizens with exactly the
same socialization, values and attitudes before the emergence of the Indignant
movement and follow them as some get involved in protest and others do not.
The panel survey allows us to do this in a post-hoc manner using the fixed-
effects approach.
Table 1 reports the results for the models using the two versions of the depen-
dent variables. The fit of both models is satisfying at the 0.001 level. The results
show that increasing media exposure and particularly, exposure to political
content fosters greater levels of civic duty, with the exception of newspapers,
which appear to lower it. More positive evaluations of the government and the
opposition also increase the likelihood of viewing voting as a duty. Most impor-
tant for the purpose of this article, however, is the finding that getting engaged
with the Indignant exerts a positive and significant effect on the evolution of
sense of civic duty between November 2010 and May 2012. The same applies
to the declared probability of voting in the general election. Involvement in
15M is positively and significantly linked to expressing growing willingness to
vote in elections.
Figure 4. Evolution of the average reported probability to vote in general elections for 15M
activists and non-activists.
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6. Discussion and Conclusions
The immediate goal of this article has been to answer the question of whether and
how involvement in the Spanish 15M movement affected attitudes towards voting.
In addressing this question I have revisited the debate on the normalization of
protest; more precisely on whether the latest protests triggered by the economic
Table 1. Fixed-effects linear estimation of 15M activism on the evolution of duty to vote and
probabilities of voting
Duty to vote Probabilities of voting
Coef.
Std.
Err. sig. Coef.
Std.
Err. sig.
Took part in 15M activities 0.101 0.040 ∗∗ 0.230 0.098 ∗∗
Perception of economic situation
(current)
20.024 0.019 20.036 0.046
Perception of economic situation
(retrosp.)
0.000 0.025 20.069 0.062
Perception of economic situation (prosp.) 0.011 0.020 0.082 0.049
Perception of personal economic
situation
20.018 0.021 20.004 0.051
Time TV daily 0.001 0.010 0.060 0.024 ∗∗
Frequency of exposure to news (TV) 20.016 0.014 0.033 0.035
Frequency of exposure to political
information (TV)
0.038 0.012 ∗∗ 0.052 0.030
Frequency reading newspapers 20.005 0.013 ∗∗ 0.044 0.033
Frequency of exposure to political
information (Internet)
0.021 0.012 0.062 0.030 ∗∗
Time Internet daily 0.037 0.015 ∗∗ 20.001 0.037
Government evaluation 0.040 0.015 ∗∗ 20.044 0.036
Opposition evaluation 0.048 0.014 ∗∗ 0.087 0.035 ∗∗
_cons 1.078 0.089 ∗∗ 7.080 0.219 ∗∗∗
sigma_u 1.118 2.835
sigma_e 0.782 1.917
rho 0.672 0.686
Number of obs. 8148 8148
Number of groups 2720 2719
Obs per group: min 1 1
Average 3 3
Maximum 4 4
R-sq: within 0.01 0.010
R-sq: between 0.06 0.080
R-sq: overall 0.04 0.050
F(13,5415) 3.75∗∗∗ 4.030∗∗∗
corr(u_i, Xb) ¼0.1409 0.170
Notes: The table represents unstandardized fixed-effects regression coefficients.
∗∗∗p,0.001; ∗∗p,0.05; p,0.1; two-tailed.
344 C. Galais
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recession are converging with more conventional political acts or signalling a return
to radical disaffection and a rejection of institutionalized forms of political engage-
ment. 15M was seen to provide a more critical test of the normalization thesis
given the anti-system discourse that surrounded it, and the youth of both their acti-
vists and of Spanish democracy, all of which would lead to expect negative effects
of protest on turnout.
The empirical evidence provided by the fixed-effects estimation models shows
unequivocally that being involved in the movement did in fact make citizens
more likely to feel that voting in elections is a civic duty. Taking part in this
movement also made citizens report a greater probability of voting in the forth-
coming national elections. The results are seen as convincing in that they are
drawn from panel data survey and controlled for time-invariant factors such as
previous attitudes or background. The findings clearly reject popular conjecture
that the movement contributed to the downplaying of elections and fostered
abstention. Furthermore, they point to positive effects of protest on electoral be-
haviour, which goes a step further than what states the normalization hypothesis.
Indeed, protest here seems to have a socialization effect that leads people to look
at elections differently, in a more positive manner, as a result of their political
involvement with the 15M movement. Considering the overtly critical posture
that the Indignant adopted towards politicians and politics, this finding of a
strengthening of the norm that voting is a duty among supporters is all the
more noteworthy.
Aside from confirming the trend of a normalizing of protest this study has several
other implications for the social movements and electoral behaviour literatures
respectively. First, the results indicate that contemporary social movements can
have a major impact on participants’ deeper political attitudes and orientations in
quite a short space of time. Civic duty is a belief or value that is generally understood
to be a product of early socialization and thus not highly susceptible to change
(Camino & Zeldin, 2002). The fact that it increased significantly as a result of acti-
vism within 15M raises important questions about how and why this proved possible.
Were certain activities within the movement of particular importance in generating
these positive views about voting? Second, the strategy adopted by the 15M is an
innovative and apparently highly successful one that deserves closer attention.
Despite its radical anti-system stance this social movement appears ultimately to
have had positive and reformist effects. How was this achieved? Part of the
answer may lie in the way in which the Indignant managed to combine catchy
mottos with a cynical discourse to support a social norm against apathy, including
electoral abstention. Any new research that looks into future variants of 15M both
inside Spain and elsewhere should bear these questions in mind when starting
their analysis. As such researchers might consider taking a qualitative approach to
complement the quantitative approach used here to fully probe these complexities
and better understand the dynamics and implications of modern-day protest
movements.
Don’t Vote for Them 345
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Notes
1. In Greece we see a drop from 71% (2009) to 62.5% (May and June 2012 elections averaged). In Italy
the evolution was from 80.5% (2008) to 75.2% (2013).
2. According to some analysts, the Spanish protest may have triggered and led the Occupy movement.
See Castan
˜eda (2012) and the BBC article “Spain’s ‘Indignant’ lead international protest day”, avail-
able at ,http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15315270..
3. Anduiza et al. (2011) compared Madrid 15M demonstrators with those who attended eight other dem-
onstrations held in Spain between January 2010 and May 2011, noticing that the Indignant were sig-
nificantly younger and less likely to be members of organizations.
4. Diario Vasco, 20 May 2011. Other examples include: “Most of the associations that have publicly sup-
ported this movement ...come from the radical, anti-system left ... Perhaps aware of that, and since
their abstention could worsen the bad picture already drawn by surveys regarding the 22-M, the leaders
of the PSOE, have already said that the ‘Indignant’ are right”. ABC, 20 May 2011. “The Indignant from
Barcelona are torn between abstention and voting. The opinion of the Indignant from Plaza Catalunya
is divided with regards whether or not to vote. While some reject the vote, arguing that there is no pol-
itical force to represent them, others claim that voting is a right and an obligation.” Que
´, 22 May 2011;
“Its immediate message – ‘don’t vote for any of them’ is not being taken as a joke by Spain’s major
parties, especially by the traditional left, including the Socialist Party (PSOE), currently in govern-
ment.” The Irish Times, 21 May 2011.
5. “In the next election we are called to exercise our main democratic right: voting ... We do not ask you
to vote by any particular party or ideology, but to check for alternative parties that might better rep-
resent your ideas” ,http://www.nolesvotes.com/.
6. “Some of us consider ourselves progressive, others conservative. Some of us are believers, some not.
Some of us have clearly defined ideologies, others are apolitical, but we are all concerned and angry
about the political, economic, and social outlook which we see around us: corruption among poli-
ticians, businessmen, bankers, leaving us helpless, without a voice”, available at ,http://www.
democraciarealya.es/manifiesto-comun/manifesto-english/.. See also their urgent communique
´of
22 May: “we need to clarify before citizenship that our movement has never asked to abstain or
vote blank or cast null votes, or vote for any party in particular. DRY encourages people to report
and decide for themselves who to give their vote to according to their ideology ...Our goal is to
improve the current electoral system, but until that model changes, we believe that everyone should
participate as you see fit”, available at ,http://madrid.democraciarealya.es/2011/05/22/comunicado-
de-prensa-urgente/..
7. The Spanish translation of the title (¡Indignaos!, an imperative form of the verb “to outrage”) is
believed to have inspired one of the names of the movement as well as some of its demands and
actions.
8. The turnout is similar to the 68% reached in 2003 local elections, a year of exceptional civic mobiliz-
ation against the Iraq war.
9. Key words were a combination of (The Indignant +Movement +Spain) and “For a Real Democracy
Now”.
10. Two examples are agorabcn, mainly composed of anarchist organizations from Barcelona, and some
local assemblies such as Rota’s.
11. Another announcement in the same vein: “The only thing that we are going to ask of people is that they
make an informed and judicious choice ... Each and every citizen must make those decisions accord-
ing to conscience.” Klaudia Alvarez, spokesperson for 15M member group Real Democracy Now
(DRY) for the online newspaper Green Left (16 October), available at ,http://www.greenleft.org.
au/node/49110..
12. Spanish scholars themselves did not agree when the press asked them what had been the impact of the
social movement on the election. Among the six academics interviewed by a Spanish newspaper four
days after the election, only two identified negative consequences either through an increase in political
disaffection or directly by triggering abstention. Eva Anduiza and Raimundo Viejo emphasize the
346 C. Galais
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plausible effects of the Indignant on party fragmentation and the increase of null votes. Available at
,http://www.lavanguardia.com/politica/20111124/54239243801/indignados-voto-elecciones-
generales.html..
13. The survey (CIS 2855) was sponsored and funded by the Centro de Investigaciones Sociolo
´gicas (CIS)
and the Universitat Auto
´noma de Barcelona (UAB) research group “Democracy, Elections and Citi-
zenship” (P.I. Eva Anduiza). The survey is the cornerstone the POLAT (CSO2010-18534) project,
a research funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. The panelists were recruited fol-
lowing different strategies (i.e. website banners) that avoid profesionalization of the respondents.
14. The CIS 2847 survey, conducted in December 2009, shows that 83% of those under 45 years old have
used the Internet at least once in the past 12 months.
15. 2100 individuals entered the panel in wave 1. Six months later, 287 withdrew and 620 were freshly
enrolled. In the fourth wave, 1322 individuals from the original sample remained and 395 from the
refreshment. That makes a total of 2720 different people that at some time entered the survey and
were asked about their civic duty and their probabilities to vote.
16. This variable takes value 0 for everybody in waves 1 and 2.
17. The CIS 2920 survey reveals that 90% of the respondents over 18 years old knew about the movement
and 11% had been involved in their actions. Those percentages increased to 95% awareness and 15%
direct involvement if respondents were restricted to those under 45 years of age.
18. Unfortunately, the probabilities of voting in local elections were not asked in this survey.
19. The question was “Different people feel differently about voting. For some, voting is a duty. They feel
that they should vote in every election regardless of their feelings about the candidates and parties. For
others, voting is a choice. They feel free to vote or not to vote in an election depending on how they feel
about the candidates and parties. For you, the respondent, in your personal opinion voting is first and
foremost a:1 Duty 2 Choice.” If respondents chose “Duty”, they were then asked “How strongly” with
options very much, somewhat and not very. After recodification, the variable takes values from 0
(“choice”) to 3 (“duty, very strongly”).
20. On this respect, the authors say: “The challenge, then, is to make it easy for people to admit that they do
not have a sense of duty. Our approach is write a new duty question, offering a non-duty option that is
as attractive and socially appropriate as possible” (Blais & Achen, 2010: 6).
21. Wave dummies have not been included in the models because they would absorb all contextual effects,
including the elections in time 2 and 3 and the activity of the 15M itself, which are at the heart of this
study. These models are, therefore, one-way fixed-effects.
22. See the appendix for the full descriptives of these variables.
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Appendix
Table A.1. Descriptives of the variables used in the fixed-effects estimation
Variable Obs Mean
Std.
Dev. Min Max
Took part in 15M activities 8229 0.09 0.28 0 1
Perception of economic situation (current) 8229 0.88 0.81 0 4
Perception of economic situation (retrosp.) 8229 0.36 0.57 0 2
Perception of economic situation (prosp.) 8229 0.88 0.70 0 2
Perception of personal economic situation 8229 0.67 0.66 0 2
Time TV daily 8229 4.66 1.92 1 8
Frequency of exposure to news (TV) 8229 3.32 1.13 0 4
Frequency of exposure to political information (TV) 8229 1.43 1.36 0 4
Frequency reading newspapers 8229 2.58 1.43 0 4
Frequency of exposure to political information
(Internet)
8229 1.57 1.49 0 4
Time Internet daily 8229 3.35 1.37 1 6
Government evaluation 8229 1.09 1.01 0 4
Opposition evaluation 8229 1.08 1.02 0 4
350 C. Galais
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