Including Political Context in the Psychological Analysis of Collective Action: Development and Validation of a Measurement Scale for Subjective Political Openness


  • Patricio Saavedra
  • John Drury


Sociological and Political Science research has argued that political conditions affect both the occurrence of protests and the actions protesters choose. However, an approach that considers people’s perceptions on these conditions is still absent in the social psychological literature. Subjective Political Openness (SPO) is a new construct which fills this gap by incorporating features of political context into the psychological analysis of protests. We propose that SPO comprises perceptions relating to three dimensions: government actions to allow/restrict protests, police measures to actively prevent them, and the extent that public opinion legitimizes protests. We conducted two studies in the UK and Chile to validate scales created for each proposed dimension, test their measurement invariance, establish SPO’s configuration, and demonstrate its convergent validity. Participants in Study 1 were university students (n UK = 203; n Chile = 237), whereas in Study 2 a general population sample from both countries was included (n UK = 377; n Chile = 309) with the purpose of generalizing the results. Both studies consistently showed that SPO is a multidimensional construct configured as a bifactor model comprising the dimensions associated with perceptions of the government and police actions to confront protests. Although we tested two different measurement scales for the perceived legitimacy given by public opinion to protests, results demonstrated this dimension is not part of SPO. The SPO configuration has implications for both our understanding of collective action and how we study it.