John Beieler

PhD Student in Political Science

Protest Behavior and Ramadan

Plotting Protests

There’s been a fair amount of discussion in the news media recently about whether the start of Ramadan will lead to a decrease in protest behavior in locations such as Egypt and Turkey. While I don’t have a forecast to offer, I do have data from GDELT that tracks protest activity dating back to 1979. With the help of Wikipedia I was able to identify the beginning of Ramadan going back to 1979. Using these dates, it is then possible to plot the time series of protest behavior with the Ramadan time period layered on top. It is important to note that this is a rather quick and dirty analysis. For example, in 1981 Ramadan began on July 3 so I marked July and August as Ramadan months. It shouldn’t affect the visualization all that much, but I thought it is important to note. Taken together, this data produces the following plot (larger version available here):

A quick eyeball test seems to indicate that Ramadan often coincides with a slightly lower level of protest activity over time. In order to shore this up, a quick correlation of “Ramadan” with the protest data shows a coefficient of about -0.025, which indicates a very weak, negative relationship between Ramadan and protest behavior.

Caveats, notes, etc.

With this said, it is important to note a few things about the data. First, this includes all protest activity over time. Events such as the US protesting the behavior of another state are included along with civilian protests. This data also includes protest data from the entire globe; it is quite possible that the effects of Ramadan are more pronounced in countries with a higher Muslim population. A final issue is the possible presence of seasonality in the data. Ramadan just might happen to coincide with time periods that experience lower protest activity, e.g., the summer months.


Since I complained on Twitter that the creators of time-series plots often fail to upload the data used to create the time series, the protest data is available here, while the dates for Ramadan I used are here. As a final note on the data, the values for the protests are percentages of total events that occurred in a given month. This controls for fact that later years, particularly those after 2005 or so, have more events due to changes in reporting, etc.