Published: June 25, 2020

John D. Griffin, Chad Kiewiet de Jonge, and Vania Ximena Velasco-Guachalla

Published: 2020, British Journal of Political Science


This article elaborates relative deprivation theory to a societal level to argue that political unrest is rooted in the polarization of citizens' grievance judgments, rather than the mean level of societal grievance. Using data from twelve cross-national survey projects, it examines the relationship between citizen polarization and political protest in eighty-four democracies and semi-democracies from 1977 to 2010. The study finds that countries with more polarized citizens are more likely to experience nonviolent protest. Protests are most likely in countries where average citizen grievances are low but citizens are polarized, which is consistent with the elaborated theoretical expectations of relative deprivation theory.

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