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Public Protests and Policy Making


  • Marco Battaglini


Technological advances and the development of social media have made petitions, public protests, and other form of spontaneous activism increasingly common tools for individuals to influence decision makers. To study these phenomena, in this article I present a theory of petitions and public protests that explores their limits as mechanisms to aggregate information. The key assumption is that valuable information is dispersed among citizens. Through petitions and protests, citizens can signal their private information to the policy maker, who can then choose to use it or not. I first show that if citizens’ individual signals are not sufficiently precise, information aggregation is impossible, no matter how large is the population of informed citizens, even if the conflict with the policy maker is small. I then characterize the conditions on conflict and the signal structure that guarantee information aggregation. When these conditions are satisfied, I show that full information aggregation is possible as the population grows to infinity. When they are not satisfied, I show that information aggregation may still be possible if social media are available.

Suggested Citation

  • Marco Battaglini, 2017. "Public Protests and Policy Making," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 132(1), pages 485-549.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:132:y:2017:i:1:p:485-549.

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    Cited by:

    1. Monica Anna Giovanniello, 2017. "Echo Chambers: Voter-to-Voter Communication and Political Competition," 2017 Papers pgi364, Job Market Papers.
    2. repec:spr:sochwe:v:49:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s00355-017-1067-3 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness


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