Social Movements, Strategic Choice, and Recourse to the Polls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 2011, twenty-one state legislatures held floor votes on one or more bills seeking to limit teachers' collective bargaining rights, tenure protections, or both. In eighteen states, these bills became law. Teachers' unions took varying approaches to fighting against these pieces of legislation, but only in a few states did they turn to the ballot box, despite widespread availability of electoral tactics. In this study, I use fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) to determine why most teachers' unions did not turn to the ballot. I find two causal “pathways”: one in which political opportunity structures and union strength make legislative compromise possible, and another in which these conditions, along with the nature of the legislative threat, make success at the ballot seem unlikely. Social movement scholars must reexamine the role that threat plays in strategic choice processes, and prospect theory can help make sense of these choices.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - Jun 2016


  • fsqca
  • social movements
  • strategy
  • tactics
  • unions


  • Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Sociology

Cite this