Multilevel Analysis of Protest: Application for Small N Designs

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Protest is the result of complex multilevel processes. It is triggered by contextual factors such as political opportunities or events, it depends on organizations’ mobilizing capacity as well as on the type of people who protest, and it is shaped by the characteristics of the populations they come from. To effectively study the antecedents that operate at various levels, social movement research needs to integrate data from multiple analytical levels and systematically examine the relationships across the various levels. While large N statistical techniques of multilevel modelling are well understood, less is known about applying multilevel analysis research examining small number of cases. The article develops conceptual and methodological tools for multilevel analysis of protests in studies with a small number of cases. First, it demonstrates the empirical requirements associated with analyzing three types of multilevel effects: contextual effects, composition effects, and cross-level interactions. Next, specific multilevel small N designs that can be used to examine the three multilevel effects are presented. The last section uses the multilevel approach to examine the demobilization of anti-Iraq War protests in the United States.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)648-668
Number of pages21
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number5
Early online date4 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The author gratefully acknowledges funding from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Research Fellowship 2016-2018 VR 123/1-1 “Protest, Hardship, and Democracy”.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 SAGE Publications.


  • anti-Iraq War protest
  • case studies
  • ecological studies
  • multilevel analysis
  • protest
  • social movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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