From Lobbying to Lockdowns: Tactical Choices Among Environmental Justice Organizations Open Access

Parris, Christie Lee (2014)

Permanent URL:


What factors affect social movement organizations' tactics? In this project, I examine how factors both internal and external to social movement organizations influence their institutional (i.e., letter-writing, lobbying, lawsuits, and leafleting) and disruptive (i.e., sit-ins, lockdowns, and other civil disobedience) tactical choices. Fusing quantitative and qualitative data, this mixed-methods project addresses two main research questions. First, I ask what structural factors affect organizational-level tactical choices. Second, I examine how activists' personal histories and their perceptions of structural factors influence the processes through which organizational tactical choices are made. To answer these questions, I first collect survey data from several social movement organizations. Interviews with organizational members will serve as the data for this question. I draw upon the environmental justice movement as the subject of this research endeavor. The environmental justice movement emerged in the 1980s in reaction to the presence of environmentally toxic emissions occurring in working-class neighborhoods.

Survey findings indicate that high membership levels of men, as well as the presence of lobbyists, and a liberal citizenry, affect institutional tactics. Factors affecting disruptive tactics include high membership levels of minorities and women, high levels of collaboration with other environmental organizations, and the absence of a paid staff. Finally, the presence of a Democratic governor predicts institutional and disruptive tactics, while a Republican majority in the state legislature predicts disruptive tactics. Interview findings, on the other hand, indicate that environmental justice activists' previous experiences with activism, as well as their perceptions of the community and political context in which they work, play a large role in how their organizations make decisions regarding tactics.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Introduction 1

The Environmental Justice Movement 4

Outline of Chapters 10


Chapter 2: Theoretical Considerations: Social Movement Organizations,

Environmental Injustice, and Tactical Choices 12

Conceptualization of Social Movements 13

Theoretical Background and Hypotheses: Social Movement Organizations 15

Case Study: Environmental Injustice in Central Appalachia 29

Theoretical Background: Individual Activists 38

- Chapter 3: Data and Methods 41

Quantitative Data and Methods 41

Quantitative Data Analysis 53

Qualitative Data and Methods 53

Qualitative Data Analysis 61


Chapter 4: Quantitative Findings: General Tactical Trends across Environmental

Justice Organizations 64

Descriptive Statistics and Correlations 64

Models 61

Discussion 68

Summary 76


Chapter 5: Qualitative Findings: Community Input, Political Context, and Tactical Decision-Making Processes 77

Background and Historical Information: Setting the Scenes 80

Activists' Histories 81

Perceptions of Community Context 86

Perceptions of Political Opportunities 98

Tactical Decisions 103

Summary 115


Chapter 6: Conclusion 116

Main Findings 117

Theoretical Implications 121

Limitations and Future Directions 127

Summary 128


References 130

About this Dissertation

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files