Book Title

Citizen Participation in Science Policy



Document Type

Book Chapter



Publication Date



James Petersen


Political science, public policy, social policy


Political protest and nonviolent struggle have had a long history in the United States, dating back to colonial times. During the nineteenth century, nonviolence was associated with such causes as abolition, temperance, antimilitarism, and women's suffrage. More recently, the nonviolent tactics and strategies used in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1950s and 1960s spawned similar activity on a diverse array of issues, including urban poverty, Native American rights, welfare reform, homosexuality, women's rights, and environmental pollution. Although many of these movements have been chronicled and protest has been recognized as an effective method for influencing political and social policy, less is known about the ways by which protest operates to exert such effects.

One aspect of this process, the ability of protesters to influence third-party observers, forms the focus of the present study. Surveying the data collected shortly after the 1978 demonstration against the construction of the Seabrook, New Hampshire, nuclear power plant provides an opportunity to examine the views of local townspeople toward the antinuclear protesters. Specifically, this research addresses the following four groups of questions:

1. How did third-party observers view construction of the Seabrook nuclear power plant and how did they view demonstrations against construction in terms of legitimacy and appeal?

2. Did third parties perceive the protesters as immature troublemakers or as responsible citizens, and did third parties view the protest as mostly violent or mostly peaceful?

3. To what extent did the protest group's ability to contact the public and legitimize its issue increase its appeal ? Furthermore, how were the protest group's abilities to contact the public, to legitimize its issue, and to generate public appeal interrelated?

4. How did the social and ideological backgrounds of third-party observers relate to the ways in which they perceived protest?


University of Massachusetts Press

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Political Science | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social Policy



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Nonviolent Protest and Third Party Public Opinion: A Study of the June 1978, Seabrook, New Hampshire, Antinuclear Power Protest
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