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Washington State University
School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs Measuring Women’s Movement Change

Measuring Women’s Movement Mobilization—Concept 21

In measuring the effect of the variation in the women’s movements capabilities to mobilize women, we identified two components: mobilization potential and degree of activism—Concept 21 in the dataset. Data on women’s activism through various mobilization structures over time was available from the country directors. Measuring potential—which would standardize variations in the measures of activism comparatively—proved to be more difficult. Social movement literature defines potential as “the degree to which women have sympathy for and/or contribute to organizations supporting movement goals and the proportion of individual members of a society willing to support the movement”. We sought to determine those attitudes across time and countries through results of public opinion polls. We looked for survey questions that tapped into attitudes toward both general women’s movement goals and specific women’s movement policy issues identified by researchers in each country for the different time periods studied in that country from the 1970s to the early 2000s.

The World Values Survey was a potential longitudinal source, but we found that it had many validity problems. In some countries, public opinion data on women’s attitudes on similar questions from reputable national surveys showed very different results to the WVS. In France for example there was as much as 20% difference. This echoed the reliability and validity issues raised by other researchers about the WVS. As an alternative, we looked into using a series of international and national surveys as a source for this variable; however, we found that comparable surveys for all time periods and countries did not exist. In fact, especially for the 1970s, no opinion surveys remain.

We have made available here, in a single document, the working materials from our attempts at compiling the data for movement mobilization—go to the quantitative dataset and see Concept 21. The document first presents the context and operationalization of the variable as it appears in the codebook, which includes the rationale for the final decision to exclude the variable. The second part includes the raw data collected in the effort to operationalize the variable, including an assessment of the different surveys, a list of the specific questions on gender equality from the different surveys by country, and a presentation of the collected survey data by country.

Institutionalization and Mobilization

Our efforts to develop measures of institutionalization and activism were more successful. We included both indicators in the quantitative dataset over-time and cross-nationally. One of our last projects was to analyze this data in the context of developing a more reliable and valid longitudinal and cross-national measurement of women’s movement change, conceptualized in terms of variations in strength. Dorothy and Amy coauthored the first draft of the paper “Women’s Movement Change: Conceptualization, Measurement and Investigation” with Season Hoard, who undertook a significant review of recent feminist and non-feminist scholarship that attempts to measure women’s and social movement change. We presented the paper at the ECPR Joint Sessions Workshop, “Thinking Big About ‘Gender Equality’ Policy in Comparative Perspective” in Antwerp in April and will be presenting a revised version at the upcoming APSA meetings in New Orleans. Our aim is to submit the piece to a social movement journal. See the version we presented at ECPR.