- Macalester College
- Assistant Professor of Political Science
- Residential Fellow (2018-2019)
- "Political Conflict as a Catalyst of Reform: Comparative Protest Outcomes in Africa"
Lisa Mueller is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Macalester College, specializing in comparative politics, political economy, and social movements, with a regional emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa. She studies how diverse activists form protest coalitions, how those coalitions seek to stimulate political change, and the contexts and conditions that contribute to different outcomes of their efforts. She is keen to adapt class-based frameworks to African cases in which class is often assumed to be irrelevant.
Professor Mueller is the author of Political Protest in Contemporary Africa (Cambridge, 2018) and articles in several journals, including Electoral Studies, African Affairs, the African Studies Review, and the African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review. Her public scholarship has appeared in the Washington Post.
Professor Mueller is a regular consultant and principal investigator for USAID and other American Government agencies, having recently been selected as the U.S.-based country expert on an extensive USAID assessment of Niger. She has conducted field research in several African countries, including Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, Malawi, and Mauritius.
Crowd Cohesion and Protest Outcomes
American Journal of Political Science, 2022
Amidst an unprecedented swell in global protest, scholars and activists wrestle with the question of why protests succeed or fail. I explore a new answer: more cohesive crowds, where protesters agree on their demands, are more likely to win concessions than less cohesive crowds. Drawing on psychology and linguistics, I theorize that cohesive demands are more comprehensible and thus persuasive. I test this theory with a multimethod approach. First, I use cross-national data from 97 protests to estimate the relationship between crowd cohesion and subsequent concessions, applying natural language processing to measure cohesion in participants’ self-reported motivations. Second, a survey experiment in South Africa tests the causal effects of crowd cohesion and assesses comprehensibility of demands as the mechanism driving concessions. Third, case studies of two British protests demonstrate the theory in real-world settings. My findings suggest that activists can improve their odds of success by coordinating around a common goal.
United We Stand, Divided We Fall? How Signals of Activist Cohesion Affect Attraction to Advocacy Organizations
Interest Groups & Advocacy, 2021
Advocacy organizations—such as political parties, political action committees, and interest groups—have the potential to shape public policy and opinion. But to realize that potential, they must mobilize participants, sympathy, and funding. This article explores whether advocacy organizations gain more support when they signal greater cohesion. A conjoint experiment tests the effects of member cohesion, along with other attributes including group size and use of violent tactics, on people’s attraction to hypothetical organizations that were founded to elect candidates from their preferred political party (in this study, the Democratic Party). Results show that Americans who identify as Democrats are more likely to join, donate to, and generally feel positive toward cohesive organizations, but will embrace those with heterogeneous goals so long as members do not actively disagree with one another. These findings can inform the strategies of “intersectional” advocacy organizations that assemble people of diverse and sometimes conflicting interests.