What Is (Un)fair? Political Ideology and Collective Action


  • Gosia Mikołajczak
  • Julia C. Becker


The established models predicting collective action have been developed based on liberal ideas of injustice perceptions showing that progressive collective action occurs when people perceive that the equality or need rule of fairness are violated. We argue, however, that these perceptions of injustice cannot explain the occurrence of social protests among Conservatives. The present work addresses one shortcoming in collective action research by exploring the interactive role of political ideology and injustice appraisals in predicting social protest. Specifically, we focused on injustice appraisals as a key predictor of collective action and tested whether the same or different conceptualizations of injustice instigate protest among Liberals versus Conservatives using data from two studies conducted in Germany (Study 1, N = 130) and in the US (Study 2, N = 115). Our findings indicate that injustice appraisals play an equally important role in instigating social protest both among Liberals and Conservatives. As we show, however, predicting collective action among individuals across the political spectrum requires accounting for ideological preferences for different fairness rules. Whereas Liberals are more likely to engage in protest when the equality and need rules are violated, Conservatives are more likely to protest when the merit rule is violated. We recommend that studies on collective action consider not only the strength of injustice appraisals but also their content, to assess which fairness principles guide one’s perceptions of (in)justice.