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Malawi Protest Study

25 August 2011

Though the 17 August protests in Malawi were postponed, we still managed to gather survey data prior to the protest as part of our study. The data were gathered in a context where everyone thought the protests were going to happen.

We interviewed 303 Malawians, roughly a third from each of three large cities: Lilongwe, Blantyre, and Zomba. Though enumerators reported that respondents and their communities were suspicious of the study (some even calling members of the research team spies from the government), our refusal rate was less than 5%. We have just begun analysis, but I will share a bit of what we have seen in the data:

  • Only 6 respondents (2%) reported not hearing about upcoming 17 August protests.
  • 30 respondents (10%) reported they planned to participate in the 17 August protests.
  • 11% reported participating in 20 July protests. (Half of those reported planning to attend the 17 August protests.)
  • More men (16%) than women (7%) reported participating on 20 July.

Though respondents answered other questions in ways that were in solidarity with the aims of the protest,  what seemed a major factor in limiting protest participation was fear (54% of non-participants cited fear as reason). Relatedly, look at these two tables breaking down responses to questions about perceived likelihood that “someone like you” would be arrested or injured at the 17 August protests:

perceived likelihood of injury due to participation in upcoming protests

perceived likelihood of arrest due to participation in upcoming protests

There are more data to be analyzed, including opinions about types of government, attitudes about protest deaths and mass burials in Mzuzu, social network effects of participation, levels of trust, and the relationship between identity and nationalism with protest participation. I will share more results once available, as well as the final report we submit to the study funding agency.

This work is a joint collaboration with Amanda Robinson, John Kadzandira, Lisa Mueller, and jimi adams. It would not have been possible without the brave commitment of our survey team to collect data in an uncertain environment.

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