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Article

The Role of Subjective Well-Being in Cuban Civil Protest against the Government: A Moderated Mediation Model

1
Facultad de Ciencias Administrativas y Recursos Humanos, Universidad de San Martín de Porres, Lima 15009, Peru
2
Facultad de Psicología, Universidad Nacional Federico Villareal, Lima 15082, Peru
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Soc. Sci. 2024, 13(1), 41; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13010041
Submission received: 2 October 2023 / Revised: 11 November 2023 / Accepted: 21 November 2023 / Published: 9 January 2024

Abstract

:
This empirical study sought to understand the drivers behind civil protest participation in authoritarian contexts, explicitly focusing on Cuba. The data were sourced from 658 respondents via online surveys facilitated by CubaData, an independent social research agency specializing in Cuban studies, employing a secure panel system that guarantees the confidentiality and anonymity of participants. Our research primarily investigated the role of satisfaction with government policies in terms of the intention to participate in civil protests, introducing subjective well-being as a moderating variable. Utilizing the Process module of SMART-PLS 4 to emulate Process Model 58 for moderated mediation analysis, we accounted for measurement errors to ensure robust findings. Further controls were incorporated for age and political self-efficacy. The results revealed that subjective well-being significantly moderates the link between satisfaction with government policies and actual participation in civil protests. These findings suggest that the happiness level can change resistance dynamics within authoritarian settings. This research has implications for academic understandings of political behavior in autocratic regimes and practical applications in policy making and activism in Cuba.

1. Introduction

The relationship between satisfaction with government policies and participation in civil protests has long captivated the field of political science. Nevertheless, most existing studies have predominantly concentrated on consolidated democracies or contexts undergoing democratic transition, leaving a knowledge gap about this relationship in authoritarian or semi-authoritarian regimes. This absence is especially glaring in the case of Cuba, a country with its own unique political, social, and cultural fabric that is marked by considerable limitations on human rights, economic volatility, and a rising wave of social and political discontent (Human Rights Watch 2022; CNN 2022; Vara-Horna 2021). This expression of civil protests was more prominent on 11 July 2021, via the consequences to protesters, when 297 were sentenced to prison (BBC News Mundo 2022).
The present study addresses this void by exploring how Cuban citizens’ satisfaction with governmental policies impacts their intended and actual participation in civil protests. Crucially, we introduce a significant variable: subjective well-being. While political psychology has started recognizing the role of emotions in political behaviors (Marcus et al. 2000), the function of subjective well-being as a potential moderating factor in this setting still needs to be explored. This study gains additional relevance as it captures honest input from hundreds of Cubans, a notable achievement given the severe restrictions on conducting independent political research in Cuba, owing to governmental censorship and the risks to participants’ freedom in speaking freely. This is included as one of the characteristics of authoritarian regimes, aside from the permanence of government for an extended time and the absence of elections (Skrypniuk et al. 2023).
Employing a moderated mediation model, we examine how subjective well-being influences the correlation between satisfaction with government policies and participation in civil protests. By doing so, the study contributes multidisciplinary insights that enrich political science and political psychology. In the intricate and bidirectional relationship between well-being and political participation, subjective well-being has traditionally been regarded as a dependent variable, wherein the political and social context determines individuals’ levels of well-being. However, recent studies have begun to consider subjective well-being as an independent variable, influencing political behaviors, but with mixed results. Against this backdrop, this study introduces a novel perspective by exploring subjective well-being as a moderating variable, potentially offering a more nuanced and detailed understanding of how well-being and political participation interact, especially in authoritarian or semi-authoritarian contexts like Cuba.
This approach allows for a deeper understanding of how citizens’ levels of satisfaction and well-being can impact, intensify, or mitigate their willingness to participate in civil protests, particularly when they are dissatisfied with government policies. By analyzing subjective well-being as a moderating variable, we are assigning it a new role and reshaping its relationship with political participation in a way that could have significant implications for understanding political behaviors and protest dynamics in restrictive settings.
Therefore, this study not only sheds light on the impact of satisfaction with government policies on the intention to participate in civil protests in Cuba but also pioneers in terms of our understanding of how subjective well-being interplays in this relationship. In doing so, it makes significant contributions that extend beyond the conventional boundaries of political science and political psychology, offering new insights and analytical tools for researchers, policy makers, and civil society organizations interested in fostering change in authoritarian regimes (Martínez Acebal 2022). The exploration of these dynamics in the Cuban context lays a valuable precedent for future research in similar environments, enriching the existing theoretical corpus and providing new avenues for analyzing and interpreting civil resistance in oppressive regimes.

2. Literature Review

The political science literature has extensively addressed the relationship between satisfaction with government policies and participation in political activities such as protests (Dalton 2008; Klandermans 1997). However, most of these studies have focused on democratic contexts, largely overlooking authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes, as with Cuba.
The Cuban context offers a natural laboratory for this type of research. With its unique political history, authoritarian system of government, and limitations on civil liberties, Cuba represents a crucial case study for understanding how these dynamics work in a nondemocratic context. The situation in Cuba is a complex amalgamation of interlinked challenges, ranging from human rights restrictions to economic instability. According to Human Rights Watch, the country continues to face severe limitations on freedom of speech and press within an environment of political repression that is characterized by arbitrary detentions and state surveillance (Human Rights Watch 2022). The Communist Party of Cuba (PCC)’s monopoly on political power inhibits pluralism and democratic participation. Economically, internal economic management has led to high unemployment rates and low wages. Food insecurity, exacerbated by scarcity and dependency on imports, adds another layer of vulnerability (Vara-Horna 2023). This volatile situation has manifested in a wave of civil protests, which have become a barometer of rising social and political discontent (CNN 2022). The overall landscape presents a set of critical indicators that require ongoing monitoring to understand the nation’s future trajectory.

2.1. Political Protest and Governments in Authoritarian Regimes

Political protest in countries with authoritarian governments is marked by a high level of dissatisfaction, stemming from factors such as economic crises, restrictions on political freedoms, governmental repression, state inefficiency and corruption, widening socio-economic disparities, lack of employment opportunities, and in some cases, limited access to basic services like health and education (Edelman 2019). These protests often arise and intensify in response to human rights violations or specific events that act as catalysts for either organized or spontaneous protest actions. However, in more repressive authoritarian regimes, where censorship and control are extreme, fear, hopelessness, and a perceived ineffectiveness of political participation can inhibit protests (Sohl 2014; van Zomeren et al. 2008; Sandoval and Da Silva 2016).
Integrating this understanding with theories of collective action and identity reveals a deeper layer of analysis. Tilly’s exploration of the dynamics of collective action in contentious politics and Tarrow’s insights on the power of movements offer a framework for understanding how collective identities are formed and become mobilized in authoritarian contexts (Tilly 1978; Tarrow 1994). These collective identities, often shaped by shared emotions and perceptions of well-being or injustice, are crucial in driving groups towards protest. This perspective is further enriched by the contributions of Doug McAdam and Sidney Tarrow, who highlight the unique strategies and challenges faced by protestors in constrained political environments (McAdam 1982; Tarrow 1994).
The affective aspects of protest, particularly emotions and subjective well-being, play a pivotal role in this context. Theories focusing on the emotional drivers of protest, as discussed by James M. Jasper and others, link emotions not only to individual actions but also to the collective dynamics of protest (Jasper 2011). Emotions such as indignation, fear, and hope, influenced by subjective well-being, can act as catalysts for collective action, shaping the nature and intensity of protests. This intersection of individual emotional states and collective identities provides a comprehensive understanding of the motivations behind political protest in authoritarian regimes, highlighting the complex interplay between personal experiences of well-being, emotional responses, and the collective mobilization of protest actions.

2.2. Well-Being, Happiness, and Life Satisfaction

The concept of “subjective well-being” has been extensively articulated and examined across psychological, sociological, and economic literature (Cooper et al. 2023; Frey and Gallus 2013). Its conceptualization is grounded in a hedonistic philosophical viewpoint, and as a theoretical construct, it has been attributed with a multidimensional nature (Cobo-Rendón et al. 2020). According to Diener et al. (1999), subjective well-being refers to how individuals evaluate their own lives, which can be through cognitive judgments such as life satisfaction or through emotional affects that include positive and negative emotional states. Lyubomirsky et al. (2005) expand on this definition by arguing that subjective well-being is a quality-of-life measure based on an individual’s experience and evaluation, encompassing both emotional states and broader life evaluations. In this regard, the construct has two dimensions, cognitive and affective, wherein the prevalence of positive valuations and emotions would lead to increased subjective well-being (Diener 2009).
A comprehensive review of the existing literature reveals that subjective well-being has been thoroughly clarified and explored from theoretical and empirical standpoints. Research has illuminated the predictive nature of subjective well-being by fulfilling universal needs (Tay and Diener 2011). Concurrently, innovative approaches in conceptualization and measurement are developed to analyze well-being, considering its economic dimension (Cooper et al. 2023).
The term “happiness” is a state of pleasure that individuals can cognitively represent and feel in response to various life events (Diener et al. 2009). In the scientific literature, it has frequently been used as a synonym for subjective well-being (Flores-Kanter et al. 2018). From this perspective, subjective well-being is interpreted as the manifestation of happiness at specific moments, capable of being quantified in terms of degrees of satisfaction (Castilla et al. 2016). Thus, subjective well-being captures happiness, contentment, and other emotional states and cognitive judgments that comprehensively assess an individual’s “well-being” (Kahneman and Deaton 2010).
While emotions and psychology have increasingly been incorporated into the study of political behavior (Marcus et al. 2000), subjective well-being has received less attention as a potential moderating variable. Subjective well-being encompasses life satisfaction, positive and negative emotions, and a sense of belonging. It is suggested that subjective well-being could play a role in modulating the relationship between satisfaction with government policies and protest participation.

2.3. Subjective Well-Being and Political Participation

In the realm of social sciences, political participation is a phenomenon that has garnered considerable attention from many scholars. Political participation is commonly defined as behavior that seeks to influence government action by affecting public policy making and can take different forms (Cheng et al. 2021). Political participation includes electoral participation (voting), consumer participation (engaging in boycotts, signing petitions), party activity (membership of a political party, doing work for or donating money to a political party), protest activity (joining in strikes, protests, and demonstrations), and contact activity including contacting elected officials (Teorell et al. 2007; Ekman and Amnå 2012).
Evidence indicates that individuals engaged in political participatory actions, including protests, develop an enhanced sense of personal trust and commitment to collective goals (Putnam 2000). Stemming from these findings, potential links between political participation and subjective well-being have been proposed. Beyond its direct outcomes, benefits, or adverse consequences, it is posited that political participation can impact the quality of life, well-being, and personal satisfaction, as it presents opportunities for learning, skill development, and social bonding. In essence, involvement in political actions fosters self-realization and personal development (Teorell 2006).
Additionally, it is pivotal to consider the social dimension of political participation to comprehend its impact on subjective well-being. Political or civic participation is a collective decision making process and pursuit of the common good. Therefore, it fosters the transformation of dependent individuals into free and empowered citizens (Barber 1998; Giddens [1994] 2000). This transformation is solidified during the political participation process and is not solely reliant on its outcomes, reflecting what Lane (1988) refers to as procedural utility. By participating politically, individuals exercise their rights, act according to their values, and contribute to society, enhancing the likelihood of experiencing well-being and personal satisfaction (Flavin and Keane 2011; Weitz-Shapiro and Winters 2011; Klar and Kasser 2009; Šarkutė 2017; Shi et al. 2022).
Political participation should be analyzed in the context of the system of government, as it may vary according to its level of democratic exercise. While the predominant narrative within existing research posits a positive impact of democracy on happiness, facilitated by democratic participation and freedom of choice, a segment of research proposes the absence of a direct causal impact of democracy on happiness (Dorn et al. 2007; Inglehart 2009; Liu et al. 2022), or that the relationship between democracy and subjective well-being is nonlinear (Prati 2022). The prevalent understanding within these studies is that the democracy–happiness relationship is contingent and can be diverse, influenced by various factors such as the level of economic development of a country and the quality of governance and service delivery (Helliwell et al. 2018; Ott 2011; Altman et al. 2017). For instance, research by Dorn et al. (2006) or Temkin and Flores-Ivich (2017) implies that the influence is more substantial for nations with a longstanding democratic tradition, and research like that of Chen et al. (2014) in China illustrates that enhanced local democracy can significantly amplify happiness for nonpoor households. Along the same line, Temkin and Flores-Ivich’s (2017) research finds that when controlling for the democratic or undemocratic character of political institutions, conventional political participation is positively and significantly associated with life satisfaction, while unconventional conflictive political activities (protests) show the opposite relationship to well-being. Viewed as a dependent variable, subjective well-being is positively affected by trust in political institutions (Hudson 2006; Piosang and Grimes 2022) or by the quality or performance of government institutions (Bjørnskov et al. 2010; Dong and Kübler 2021) or the welfare state (Pacek and Radcliff 2008; Pacek et al. 2019).
The literature has mainly focused on studying subjective well-being as a dependent variable. However, a sparse but growing body of research now argues that subjective well-being could be an independent variable (Sulemana and Agyapong 2019; Weitz-Shapiro and Winters 2011; Flavin and Keane 2011; Lorenzini 2015; Lindholm 2020; Ng et al. 2022). Indeed, adopting another perspective and directionality, it has been posited that well-being influences political participation. The level of satisfaction and well-being shapes the willingness to participate politically and dictates how we engage. It is assumed that individuals with high levels of perceived well-being are less motivated to participate politically or to protest, having satisfied their needs and reached a state of complacency that distances them from social objectives and aligns them with personal goals (Inglehart 1990; Veenhoven 1988). Indeed, seventh-wave data from the World Values Survey in Hong Kong indicate that individuals that are more dissatisfied with their lives are more likely to engage in radicalized actions such as strikes and boycotts (Cheng et al. 2021), data which are coincident with studies by Lorenzini (2015), Lindholm (2020), and Temkin and Flores-Ivich (2017).
It is important to highlight that emotions, a key component of subjective well-being, act as dispositional or motivational factors in various behaviors, including political participation and protest (Jasper 2011). Drawing from the emotional mobilization theory, Jasper (2014) suggests that emotions (such as anger, indignation, joy, fear, optimism, etc.) are affective processes that are intertwined with varying degrees of cognitive processing, predisposing individuals or groups towards behaviors with diverse aims and expressions. For instance, the emotional experience of indignation is associated with a high level of cognitive information processing and a distinct pattern of protest (Jasper 2018). Conversely, fear (a reflex emotion) involves a lower degree of cognitive processing and leads to more reactive or spontaneous protest behavior.
In light of theoretical propositions about how and why emotions relate to social mobilizations (Jasper 2010, 2012, 2018), there has been a growing interest in the literature on the role of emotions as “accelerators” in the process of joining protest movements and as “amplifiers” of motivations to protest. This interest is due to emotions’ influence on social perceptions and information processing (Van Troost et al. 2013; Van Stekelenburg and Klandermans 2013). People protest to express frustration and a perception of injustice (Dalton et al. 2010; Van Stekelenburg and Klandermans 2013). Thus, it is expected that subjective well-being, which is linked to positive emotional experiences, would decrease the intentions to protest. However, other studies have not found that subjective well-being impacts political participation, such as voting or protesting (Sulemana and Agyapong 2019; Pirralha 2017; Pirralha 2018). In this context, subjective well-being could take on different explanatory roles, such as a moderating effect, which still requires further evaluation.
A moderating variable affects the direction and/or strength of the relationship between an independent and dependent variable. It influences the degree to which the dependent variable changes in response to any change in the independent variable. In the context of the relationship between satisfaction or trust in government policies and intention to protest, one could postulate that subjective well-being (SWB) acts as a moderating variable, rather than an independent variable. This suggests that SWB could alter the strength or direction of the relationship between trust or satisfaction in government policies and the intention to protest. For example, if subjective well-being is high, dissatisfaction or distrust in government policies might impact the intention to protest less. Individuals with high levels of subjective well-being might be less likely to protest, despite their dissatisfaction or distrust with government policies, as their perceived happiness or contentment might mitigate their motivation to protest. In contrast, when subjective well-being is low, dissatisfaction or distrust in government policies could increase the likelihood of protesting. People with low levels of subjective well-being may be more susceptible to dissatisfaction or distrust in government policies and, therefore, more inclined to protest. In this sense, subjective well-being would not directly affect the intention to protest as an independent variable, but rather modulate how satisfaction or trust in government policies is related to the intention to protest. However, it is crucial to stress that this conceptualization of subjective well-being as a moderating variable still requires robust empirical evidence to support it conclusively. Future studies should thoroughly explore and test this possible moderator to confirm or refute the proposed hypothesis and better understand the underlying dynamics between these variables in different contexts.
The causal mechanism by which subjective well-being impacts the intention to protest and serves as a moderating factor in the proposed model can be grounded in the postulates of the feelings-as-information theory (Schwarz 2011). This theory holds that feelings function as a source of information and modulate the decision making process. Therefore, if an individual experiences a high level of subjective well-being, his or her protest intention and behavior are likely to decrease. This relational pattern has been observed in electoral processes when analyzing reasons for voting against an incumbent ruler and participating in protests (Ward 2019; Sulemana and Agyapong 2019). When voters report lower subjective well-being, their electoral decision is against the ruling party candidate (Ward et al. 2021; Bravo 2016). Similarly, Lorenzini (2015) found that satisfied young people whose perceived well-being is higher tend to be willing to participate in electoral processes and have a lower intention to protest. In contrast, young people with lower well-being and satisfaction due to exposure to adverse social and political conditions show more significant participation in protest actions.

3. Conceptual Model

This study offers a nuanced framework for understanding the complex interplay between political and psychological dimensions within the singular context of Cuba. Employing a moderated mediation model, the research probes how subjective well-being could moderate the relationship between satisfaction with governmental policies and participation in civil protests.
The foundational model postulates that satisfaction and trust in government policies negatively influence the intention to engage in civil protests. This fundamental assumption is grounded in extant political science research. Once activated, the intention likely manifests in the behavior of participating in civil protests. Thus, intention is an essential mediating variable, linking government policy satisfaction to civil protest behavior. This base model draws from studies on institutional trust and social justice theories, explicating why satisfaction with government policies could reduce the intent to protest (Hutter and Braun 2013).
Various variables could alter the intention–behavior relationship. According to the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), the stronger the intention to perform a behavior is, the more likely it is that the behavior will be performed (Conner and Norman 2022). However, intervening events can attenuate the intention–behavior relation. Other factors that may influence one’s beliefs include perceived risk, moods and emotions, culture, knowledge, attitudes toward objects or institutions, types of social influence, and motivation to comply with normative beliefs (Ajzen and Fisbbein 1974; Van Stekelenburg and Klandermans 2013). In the context of protests, not all dissatisfied citizens necessarily intend to protest; other factors, such as patriotism, could intervene. Similarly, transitioning from intention to action is not automatic; other variables could rupture or accelerate this relationship. Intention and action represent distinct phases in the protest process, with different factors potentially influencing each. For instance, fear of governmental repression might deter the transition from intention to action.
We aim to evaluate whether subjective well-being serves a moderating role in this mediated relationship. Social psychology research supports our hypothesis that subjective well-being either mitigates or amplifies the impact between satisfaction and intention (Lindholm 2020; Burger and Eiselt 2023). Happier individuals are less likely to engage in protests, as they are generally more content with the status quo. On the flip side, we argue that the moderating effect of well-being is less pronounced in transitioning from protest intention to actual protest.
Political dissatisfaction is plausible given Cuba’s authoritarian regime, marked by restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. The moderating role of subjective well-being in Cuba could be attributed to various factors, such as resource scarcity, government distrust, personal experiences, and hope for change: 1. Less happy people may face difficult living conditions like poverty or lack of access to essential services. This could make them more inclined to protest. 2. Less happy people may be more critical or distrustful of government policies and, therefore, more likely to protest. 3. Lower happiness levels could be related to negative personal experiences with the system, such as arbitrary arrests or discrimination, which could influence the intention to protest. 4. Less happy people may see protests as a way to improve their situation, while happier people may not see the need for change or may have more to lose.
Interestingly, the substantial moderating effect of happiness on protest intention may be limited in its influence on protest behavior. Several factors can explain this:
1. Threshold for Action: The gap between intention and action is a critical juncture in protest behavior. While happiness may influence the desire or intention to protest, acting requires overcoming additional barriers. Fear of government repression is a significant factor here. In authoritarian regimes like Cuba, the risk of retribution for protesting can be high, potentially outweighing the influence of happiness on protest behavior. This discrepancy between intention and action underscores the complexity of the decision making process in protest participation.
2. Cost of Participation: The perceived risks and costs of engaging in protest, such as legal consequences, social stigma, or physical danger, often play a pivotal role in the decision making process. These costs can be prohibitive, deterring individuals from participating in protests, irrespective of their happiness levels. This aspect highlights the rational calculation involved in protest behavior, where individuals weigh the potential benefits against the risks.
3. Influence of Social Support and Information: Access to supportive social networks and accurate information can significantly influence the likelihood of transitioning from protest intention to action. In many cases, these factors might be more influential than individual happiness. Social support can provide the necessary encouragement and resources, while access to information can help individuals assess the risks and benefits more accurately.
4. Temporal Timing: The impact of happiness on protest behavior may vary depending on the timing. While happiness might influence the initial consideration or intention phase, other immediate factors may become more relevant as the protest event approaches. These could include changing political circumstances, immediate threats, or opportunities that arise, making happiness a less significant factor in the final decision to protest.
5. Dis-inhibition in Survey Responses: Survey responses might not always translate into actual behavior. Less happy individuals might express a stronger intention to protest in a survey setting, possibly as a form of emotional expression or dis-inhibition. However, when it comes to actual participation, various practical considerations or constraints may prevent them from following through with their intentions.
6. Cultural or Social Aspects: In a context like Cuba’s, where there are strong cultural and social sanctions against protesting, factors such as age, social identity, and self-efficacy in protesting abilities may significantly influence one’s decision to engage in protest actions, potentially more than one’s level of happiness. These factors can dictate how individuals perceive the feasibility and effectiveness of protesting, as well as their role within the protest movement.
Thus, our overarching hypothesis posits that “Happiness moderates the relationship between satisfaction with government policies and both the intention and participation in civil protests in Cuba, such that levels of happiness influence the strength and direction of these relationships”. From this central hypothesis, four specific hypotheses arise:
H1. 
Satisfaction with government policies is inversely related to the intention to participate in civil protests.
H2. 
The intention to engage in civil protests is directly related to effective participation.
H3. 
Subjective well-being is a moderating variable in the relationship between satisfaction with government policies and the intention to protest.
H4. 
Subjective well-being also moderates the relationship between the intention to protest and effective participation in protests.
Figure 1 is a path diagram that outlines the constructs and their relationships, visually representing each hypothesis in the moderated mediation model. The diagram illustrates how “Satisfaction with Government Policies” negatively influences “Intention to Engage in Civil Protests”, which in turn positively affects “Actual Participation in Protests”. “Subjective Well-Being” is a moderating variable affecting these relationships. Each of these constructs is represented with its respective observable indicators.
Additionally, two control variables, “Age” and “Self-Efficacy in Protest Capabilities”, are included in the diagram to account for their potential influence on the primary constructs. These control variables allow for a more nuanced understanding of the transition from intention to action in civil protests and the initial formation of the intention to protest.
Age is a control variable that can moderate the impact between satisfaction and intention in political participation, including protest behavior. Previous research has shown that political participation can vary significantly by age group (Crittenden 1963; Trachtman et al. 2023). In the specific case of Cuba, older adults are generally expected to have a more significant historical adherence to the revolution, thereby showing more commitment to government policies.
Self-efficacy in political participation, including protest behavior, is another factor that can affect the impact between satisfaction and intention in political participation. Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in their ability to perform a specific task or behavior. Studies have found that self-efficacy is positively associated with political participation, including voting behavior and direct and indirect forms of political participation (Condon and Holleque 2013; Mead 2018).

4. Materials and Methods

4.1. Participants

The data for this study were collected through online surveys conducted by CubaData (www.cubadata.com, accessed on 10 June 2023), an independent social research agency specializing in studies within Cuba. CubaData employs various digital mediums, such as mobile applications and internet-based platforms, to facilitate survey participation. CubaData has developed a secure panel system comprising thousands of Cuban residents. This system ensures the confidentiality and anonymity of the respondents by employing encrypted information. This measure allows panelists to express their opinions without fear of government censure or reprisals.
It is noteworthy that CubaData has built a long-term relationship of trust with its panelists, which contributes to the reliability and authenticity of the responses collected. The online format and secure methodology ensure a broad geographical reach across all provinces of Cuba and provide a safe space for participants, enhancing the quality and depth of the data collected for this study.
To ensure the accuracy of our participant data, we utilized CubaData’s GPS tracking feature to confirm that all respondents were current residents of Cuba. Anyone residing outside of Cuba at the time of the survey was excluded from the study. This precise approach, facilitated by CubaData, was key in maintaining the validity of our research, which was focused on the Cuban population.
The sample for this study consisted of 658 Cuban residents, representing a diverse cross-section of the population in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and educational background. Below are the detailed characteristics of the study participants.
Of the sample, 70.5% identified as male, and 29.5% identified as female. The ages of the participants ranged from 18 to 80 years, with a mean age of 41.93 (SD = 12.29). The age distribution was as follows: 8.2% were under 24 years of age, 26.7% were between 25 and 34, 24.5% were between 35 and 44, 29.2% were between 45 and 59, and 11.4% were above 59.
Participants hailed from all provinces of Cuba. Specifically, 31.7% resided in Havana, 12.4% were from the northern region, 26.7% from the central region, and 29.1% from the southern region of Cuba.
Regarding education, 50.2% of the respondents had attained a higher education level, 38.3% had technical education, 6.4% had primary education, and 5.2% classified themselves under “others”.
Regarding ethnic self-identification, most of the sample (65.5%) identified as White, followed by 26.7% who identified as Mixed Race, 6.8% as Afro-descendant, and a minor proportion (0.9%) identified as “Others”.
More than half of the participants (56.7%) reported being in a relationship. The participants’ marital status varied: 35.1% were married, 2.9% were divorced, 43.2% were single, 0.2% were widowed, and 18.7% were cohabiting.
Occupationally, the participants spanned different sectors: 11.2% were homemakers, 4.1% were unemployed, 46.4% were employed in the state sector, 7% were privately employed, 5.9% were students, 21.3% were self-employed, and 4.1% were retirees.

4.2. Measures

The variables utilized in this research are derived from the database of the “First Panel on Quality of Life and Exercise of Rights in Cuba”, conducted by CubaData in 2022 (Vara-Horna 2023). In addition to demographic variables, the study incorporates various constructs measured through observable indicators. These constructs aim to shed light on multiple dimensions of the research questions, thereby enhancing the comprehensiveness and depth of the analysis.
These variables and demographic information serve as critical inputs for the moderated mediation model employed in the study. They offer multidimensional insights into the roles that satisfaction with governmental policies and subjective well-being play in civil protest behavior. By extracting these variables from a robust and trusted database, the study achieves a higher level of validity and reliability, thereby adding substantial value to the scholarly understanding of civil protests in the unique context of Cuba.
Independent Variable: Satisfaction with Government Policies. The independent variable of this study is “Satisfaction with Government Policies”, which assesses the perception and trust that citizens have regarding their government’s actions and decisions. This variable was measured using a 10-point Likert scale based on nine specific statements about government policies. The statements included the questions Do you trust that the laws enacted in the country are fair? Do you trust the administration of justice in the country? Do you trust the honest and/or integral performance of the police? Do you trust the President to respond to the needs of the people? Do you trust the Communist Party to respond to the needs of the people? How satisfied are you with how Cuba is governed? How satisfied are you with the government’s response to the country’s economic crisis? How satisfied are you with the existing mechanisms for receiving remittances in the country? How satisfied are you with the government’s respect for the population’s human rights?
Mediating Variable: Intention to Participate in Civil Protests. The mediating variable, “Intention to Participate in Civil Protests”, captures the willingness of individuals to engage in demonstrations or acts of civil disobedience. This was measured using a 10-point scale with questions about the respondent’s likelihood of participating in protests. Questions included How likely will you eventually participate in any of these civil demonstrations? How likely will you participate in these non-governmental or civil society independent groups? How likely can you share your genuine political opinions using social media or the internet? How likely are you to share your genuine political opinions in your neighborhood?
Dependent Variable: Participation in Civil Protests. The dependent variable, “Participation in Civil Protests”, is an outcome variable that measures actual involvement in demonstrations or acts of civil resistance. This was quantified by counting the number of times an individual has participated in protests or demonstrations over a specified period. Questions included “How often do you participate in public marches or demonstrations related to government protests?” and “How often do you participate in online or social media protests related to government protests?”
Moderating Variable: Subjective Well-Being (Happiness). The moderating variable, “Subjective Well-being”, is a multidimensional construct capturing individuals’ general emotional and cognitive state. This included components like satisfaction with various aspects of life and was measured using a 10-point rating scale. The following items were used: How satisfied are you with your life? To what extent do you consider yourself a happy person? How happy do you feel with your current living conditions? How happy do you feel with your work or studies? How happy do you feel with your social life (with friendships and group gatherings)? How happy do you feel with your family life? How happy do you feel with your love life? How happy do you feel with the achievement of your personal goals?
Control Variable 1: Age. Measured as a numeric variable. The question is “How old are you?”.
Control Variable 2: Self-Efficacy in Political Participation. This captures the extent to which individuals feel capable of participating in political acts effectively. Including this variable is crucial, as confidence in one’s ability to effect change could influence the intention and action of participating in protests. The question is “How much do you trust your ability to participate in politics?”
We thoroughly evaluated the psychometric properties of the measurement models for each construct. Two reliability indicators were utilized to gauge the internal consistency of the items measuring each construct: 1. Cronbach’s Alpha. This coefficient assesses the internal consistency of the items within each construct. A value of 0.7 or higher is generally considered acceptable. 2. Composite Reliability (CR): Serving a similar purpose to Cronbach’s alpha, CR goes a step further by considering the different loadings of individual items on the construct. A CR value above 0.7 indicates good reliability. On the other side, the validity of the constructs was assessed through two key metrics. The convergent validity is evaluated through the average variance extracted (AVE) value. An AVE value of 0.5 or higher confirms that more than half of the variance in the indicators is accounted for, establishing convergent validity. Additionally, two methods were employed to confirm discriminant validity: the Fornell–Larcker Criterion (Fornell and Larcker 1981) states that a construct should share more variance with its indicators than any other construct in the model, and the Heterotrait–Monotrait Ratio (HTMT), when values are smaller than 0.85, suggests that the constructs are distinct.
Figure 2 shows that convergent validity was universally strong across constructs, evident from the AVE values (in circles), which comfortably exceeded the conventional 0.5 benchmark. The AVE within each construct also aligns with the factor loadings (between arrows) and surpassed the 0.7 threshold, further corroborating the constructs’ convergent validity.
Concerning reliability, Cronbach’s alpha for “Intention to Participate in Civil Protests” was particularly strong (0.866), and its composite reliabilities (rho_a = 0.872, rho_c = 0.909) further supported its internal consistency. “Satisfaction with Government Policies” and “Subjective Well-being” also showed exemplary reliability with Cronbach’s alphas of 0.971 and 0.930, respectively. In contrast, “Participation in Civil Protests” had a notably low Cronbach’s alpha (0.534). However, it is important to note that this construct consisted of only two items, which often results in underestimating reliability when using Cronbach’s alpha. Despite the low alpha value, the composite reliability was satisfactory (rho_c = 0.811), implying that the construct may still be reliable.
The HTMT ratios strongly corroborate the discriminant validity of the constructs under consideration. All pairs of constructs returned HTMT ratios that were substantially below the threshold of 0.85, solidifying the evidence that each construct measures a distinct phenomenon. In the pairing between “Participation in Civil Protests” and “Intention to Participate in Civil Protests”, the HTMT ratio was 0.638, well below the conservative threshold of 0.85. This indicates a good level of discriminant validity between the two constructs. For the construct pairs involving “Satisfaction with Government Policies”, the HTMT ratios were noticeably low—0.222 with “Intention to Participate in Civil Protests” and 0.365 with “Participation in Civil Protests”. These ratios confirm that these constructs are, in fact, distinct from one another. The constructs “Subjective Well-being” and “Intention to Participate in Civil Protests” (0.186), as well as “Subjective Well-being” and “Participation in Civil Protests” (0.173), further exhibited low HTMT ratios, substantiating their discriminant validity. When comparing “Subjective Well-being” with “Satisfaction with Government Policies”, the HTMT ratio was 0.419, confirming the constructs as separate entities.
The findings from the Fornell–Larcker criterion confirm the discriminant validity of all constructs under investigation. Each construct’s AVE square root exceeded its highest correlation with any other construct, indicating that every construct captures a unique aspect that is distinct from the others. With this, the constructs’ discriminant validities within the measurement model stand substantiated, further consolidating the quality of the measurement models. For the construct “Intention to Participate in Civil Protests”, the square root of the AVE is 0.846, which is larger than its correlations with “Participation in Civil Protests” (0.436), “Satisfaction with Government Policies” (−0.209), and “Subjective Well-being” (−0.170). Similarly, “Participation in Civil Protests” has an AVE square root of 0.826, which surpasses its correlations with the other constructs, “Intention to Participate in Civil Protests” (0.436), “Satisfaction with Government Policies” (−0.074), and “Subjective Well-being” (−0.077). The construct “Satisfaction with Government Policies” presents an AVE square root of 0.902, outperforming its correlations with “Intention to Participate in Civil Protests” (−0.209), “Participation in Civil Protests” (−0.074), and “Subjective Well-being” (0.399). Lastly, “Subjective Well-being” boasts an AVE square root of 0.841, which is superior to its correlations with “Intention to Participate in Civil Protests” (−0.170), “Participation in Civil Protests” (−0.077), and “Satisfaction with Government Policies” (0.399).

4.3. Data Analysis Procedure

To analyze the relationships among the variables—Satisfaction with Government Policies (Independent Variable), Intention to Participate in Civil Protests (Mediator), Participation in Civil Protests (Dependent Variable), and Subjective Well-being (Moderator)—we employed the SmartPLS version 4 software (Ringle et al. 2023), which includes the Process module to emulate and improve upon the capabilities of Process 4.2 for SPSS. This tool supports path analysis and is particularly suitable for moderated mediation analysis.

4.3.1. Statistical Models Employed

The SmartPLS Process module operates based on a one-step approach using equally weighted indicators for constructs with multiple measures and on unstandardized data. It effectively mimics the results produced by the PROCESS macro in SPSS. Our model was configured to test both the mediating effects of “Intention to Participate in Civil Protests” and the moderating effects of “Subjective Well-being”.
Leveraging the path analysis capabilities in SmartPLS, we estimated a system of equations with multiple dependent and independent variables. This approach allows for the structural relationships between observed variables, or equally weighted constructs, to be modeled with control variables.

4.3.2. Model Estimation and Evaluation

In SmartPLS, variables of a path model can be incorporated as single-item constructs or, when based on multiple indicators, are assigned equal weights to obtain construct scores. SmartPLS automatically generates the construct scores. Bootstrapping techniques were applied to assess the significance of the relationships, utilizing 5000 resamples to provide a robust estimate of confidence intervals (bias-corrected and accelerated bootstrap).
To further assess the model fit, we employed various indicators that SmartPLS provides: R-squared (R2) represents the amount of variance in the dependent variable explained by the independent variables. A higher value is indicative of a better model fit. Most paths (beta) between constructs should be statistically significant (sig. < 0.05) in a well-fitted model. Additionally, residuals were examined to ensure they did not violate assumptions such as normality and homoscedasticity.

4.3.3. Interpretation of Results

The SmartPLS Process analysis provides conditional direct and indirect effects among the variables. Following the theoretical framework and statistical guidelines proposed by Hayes (2022), these effects are interpreted as follows:
Conditional Direct Effects. Conditional direct effects pertain to how the relationship between the independent and dependent variables changes at different levels of the moderator. In this study, this would involve examining how the direct effect of “Satisfaction with Government Policies” on “Participation in Civil Protests” varies across different levels of “Subjective Well-being”.
Hayes (2022) provides a detailed roadmap for interpreting these conditional effects: 1. Significance of the Interaction Term. A statistically significant interaction term between the independent variable and the moderator would indicate that the direct effect is, indeed, conditional on the level of the moderator. 2. Probing the Interaction. The interaction is typically probed at different values of the moderator variable, often at one standard deviation below the mean, the mean, and one above the mean. This can offer a nuanced understanding of the conditional nature of the direct effect. 3. Region of Significance. The region of significance for the conditional direct effect identifies ranges within the moderator for which the direct effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable is statistically significant. 4. Visualizing the Effects. A plot of the direct effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable across the range of the moderator is often generated to aid interpretation. This gives a graphic representation of the conditional nature of the direct effect.
Conditional Indirect Effects (Moderated Mediation). The role of Subjective Well-Being is crucial here. Hayes (2022) posits that in moderated mediation, the indirect effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable through the mediator can be conditioned by the levels of another variable—the moderator: 1. Interactions. We look for interaction terms between the mediator and the moderator. A significant interaction term would imply that the effect of the intention to participate in protests on actual participation is influenced by the individual’s level of subjective well-being. 2. Probing and Region of Significance. Following Hayes, conditional indirect effects are often probed at different levels of the moderator (e.g., mean, one standard deviation above/below the mean) to interpret their impact. The region of significance is identified to determine the ranges of the moderator where the indirect effects are significant. 3. Given moderated mediation’s complexity, plotting the conditional process models to interpret the effects visually is often recommended.

5. Results

5.1. Descriptive Results

Figure 3 shows the average of each construct in a range of values between 0 (never) and 10 (always). The mean intention to participate in civil protests is significantly higher (3.966) than actual participation (1.748). This discrepancy may suggest that while the intent to engage in civil action is relatively high, the translation of this intent into action could be much higher. On the other hand, the average level of satisfaction with government policies is low, standing at 2.056. This seems to align with the higher intention to participate in protests. The dissatisfaction with government policies could be a driving force for the intent for civil engagement. Subjective Well-Being has the highest mean (5.302), which is around the mid-point on the scale. This suggests that subjective well-being is relatively moderate among the respondents despite a low satisfaction with government policies and low participation in protests. The high level of well-being, relative to other variables, could either indicate resilience or suggest that government policy is not a significant factor influencing well-being for this sample. Finally, Self-efficacy in Political Participation has a mean that is reasonably close to the mean of the intention to participate in civil protests. This could imply that people who believe they can make a difference politically are more likely to consider participating in civil protests.
Table 1 presents the descriptive statistics and the Pearson correlation matrix among the study variables. The observed correlations and mean scores offer a nuanced understanding of the dynamics involved in civil protests. A moderate positive correlation was observed between Intention to Participate in Civil Protests and Participation in Civil Protests (r = 0.468, p < 0.001). This supports the hypothesis that individuals with a higher intention to protest are likelier to engage in civil protests. However, the data suggest that other factors also play a significant role.
Negative but weak correlations were found between Satisfaction with Government Policies and both Intentions to Participate in Civil Protests (r = −0.205, p < 0.001) and Participation in Civil Protests (r = −0.131, p < 0.001). This suggests that dissatisfaction with government policies may drive both the intention and the act of protesting, although the correlation is not strong.
A positive correlation of Subjective Well-Being with Satisfaction with Government Policies (r = 0.379, p < 0.001) suggests that individuals that are more content with life may also be more satisfied with government policies. Positive correlations were observed in Self-Efficacy in Political Participation with Intention to Participate in Civil Protests (r = 0.281, p < 0.001) and Participation in Civil Protests (r = 0.325, p < 0.001). This implies that the belief in one’s ability to engage in political activities is effectively associated with both the intention and the act of participating in protests. Finally, a negative correlation was observed between Age and Participation in Civil Protests (r = −0.122, p < 0.05), indicating that younger individuals may be more likely to participate in civil actions, although this relationship is weak.
Table 2 reports the moderated mediation model’s conditional direct and indirect effects. It includes standard deviations (STDEV), t-values (T), significance levels (Sig.), and the 95% confidence intervals (C.I.s) for each path coefficient.

5.2. Conditional Direct Effects

At high levels of subjective well-being (+1 SD), the path from Satisfaction with Government Policies (SGP) to Intention to Participate in Civil Protests (IPCP) was negative and statistically significant (B = −0.117, t = 2.564, p = 0.005). This suggests that dissatisfaction with government policies significantly influences the intention to protest among individuals with higher levels of well-being. The path from IPCP to Participation in Civil Protests (PCP) was also positive and significant (B = 0.312, t = 5.311, p < 0.001), suggesting that intentions robustly translate into actions for this group.
At average levels of subjective well-being, a similar but stronger negative relationship was observed between SGP and IPCP (B = −0.18, t = 4.463, p < 0.001). The path from IPCP to PCP remained positive and significant (B = 0.384, t = 11.149, p < 0.001).
For individuals with low levels of subjective well-being (−1 SD), dissatisfaction with government policies exerts an even more substantial negative influence on the intention to protest (B = −0.242, t = 3.875, p < 0.001). However, the path from IPCP to PCP also showed a significant positive relationship (B = 0.456, t = 10.91, p < 0.001).

5.3. Conditional Indirect Effects

For individuals with average levels of subjective well-being, the indirect effect of SGP on PCP via IPCP was negative and significant (B = −0.069, t = 4.029, p < 0.001). At high and low levels of subjective well-being, the indirect effects were also significant and negative, though varying in their magnitudes (High: B = −0.037, t = 2.209, p = 0.014; Low: B = −0.11, t = 3.615, p < 0.001).

5.4. Control Variables

Both Age and Self-Efficacy in Political Participation (SEPP) emerged as significant predictors in our models, contributing to the explanation of the variance in Intention to Participate in Civil Protests (IPCP) and Participation in Civil Protests (PCP). Regarding control variables, age significantly predicted both IPCP and PCP, suggesting that the individual’s age may influence the likelihood of both intending to and participating in protests. Similarly, SEPP showed a strong predictive power, indicating that individuals who possess greater confidence in their abilities to engage in political action are more likely to intend to protest and to do so.
Regarding the model fit, the R-squared values provide an indication of the explanatory power of each model. For the model predicting Intention to Participate in Civil Protests (IPCP), the R-squared value was 0.123, indicating that approximately 12.3% of the variance in IPCP can be accounted for by our model, including the control variables. For the model predicting Participation in Civil Protests (PCP), the R-squared value was substantially higher at 0.278, meaning that about 27.8% of the variance in PCP is explained by the variables in the model. These R-squared values suggest a moderate level of predictive power, particularly for the model focused on actual participation in protests.
The moderated mediation analysis reveals that the relationship between dissatisfaction with government policies and the intention and actual participation in civil protests is conditional upon individuals’ levels of subjective well-being. Higher levels of well-being appear to mitigate the negative impact of dissatisfaction with the government on the intent and act of protesting. The mediation effects through IPCP further substantiate this finding.
To facilitate a comprehensive understanding of moderated mediation analysis, we present three graphs, each illustrating the conditional effects at high (green line) and low levels (red line) of subjective well-being (Figure 4). These graphs show a progressively steeper negative relationship between Satisfaction with Government Policies and the Intention to Participate in Civil Protests as levels of subjective well-being decrease.
Indeed, Figure 4a illustrates that dissatisfaction with government policies has a more significant impact on the intention to participate in civil protests when individuals have lower levels of subjective well-being. Interpreting this graph might suggest that people who are more satisfied with government policies are generally less inclined to participate in civil protests, and levels of subjective well-being moderate this relationship. In other words, the extent to which satisfaction with government policies influences intentions to protest could differ at different subjective well-being levels.
Figure 4b similarly shows that the influence of the intention to engage in civil protests has a slightly more substantial impact on actual protest behavior among individuals with lower levels of subjective well-being. So, across all levels of SWB, the relationship between IPPC and PPC is positive. However, it is also noteworthy that the slope of the relationship (i.e., the increase in PPC per unit increase in IPPC) seems somewhat consistent across different levels of SWB, suggesting that SWB does not necessarily moderate the relationship between IPPC and PPC, although it does seem to shift the intercept. Interpreting this would likely suggest that people with higher intentions to participate in political or civil protests are also more likely to engage in such conduct. The extent to which they do so does not appear to be significantly influenced by their levels of subjective well-being.

6. Discussion

The primary aim of this study was to examine the relationship between dissatisfaction with government policies and the intention to engage in civic protests in Cuba, and how subjective well-being moderates this relationship. The study contributes novel insights into restricted-freedom countries by analyzing the interplay among political, psychological, and social variables.
The study results reveal low levels of political satisfaction and engagement in protests, which can be interpreted as indicators of severe restrictions on exercising political and social rights in Cuba. This finding is particularly alarming given the significant intention to protest despite these constraints. The data suggest a palpable tension between what citizens desire regarding civic action and what they can or are willing to do, possibly due to fears of reprisals or negative repercussions. These restrictions on rights could be both a cause and an effect of the low levels of protest engagement and satisfaction with governmental policies. However, it is essential to remember that these variables are indicative rather than causal. Nonetheless, they highlight the need to address structural challenges that inhibit the complete exercise of political and social rights.
One striking finding is the significant discrepancy between the intention to engage in civic protests and actual participation. While intention is relatively low (3.9 on a scale of 10), actual participation is considerably lower (1.7 of 10). This notable difference intimates that, within the Cuban socio-political milieu, while there exists a willingness or disposition among individuals to partake in civic actions, there are potent factors or barriers at play that thwart the conversion of this willingness into actual participation. This discrepancy demands a deeper exploration of the myriad of potential reasons that contribute to such a diversion between intent and action. In the socio-political context of Cuba, characterized by stringent governmental control and limited political freedoms, individuals could face significant external constraints such as fear of governmental retaliation, societal pressure, or lack of conducive environments and supportive networks for civic actions. These could deter individuals from acting on their intentions. Additionally, internal constraints, such as a perceived inefficacy of protests or a lack of belief in the potential for change, may also play a pivotal role. Understanding the multifaceted inhibitors to converting intention to actual participation in civic actions within Cuba could offer profound insights into the intricate dynamics of civic engagement within authoritarian regimes. It emphasizes the need to delve deeper into the psychological, societal, and political mechanisms governing civic behaviors in restrictive settings like Cuba. Investigating these constraining factors is crucial for a more nuanced comprehension of civic participation under oppressive regimes. It can inform strategies for fostering and supporting civic engagements in such contexts.
In this study, the average level of subjective well-being among the sampled Cuban population was observed to be approximately intermediate, at 5.3 on the scale. This could denote an inherent form of resilience or adaptive coping mechanisms embedded within the population, possibly developed as responses to prolonged exposure to authoritative governmental structures and socio-economic adversities. Interestingly, the moderated mediation analysis shows that individuals with different levels of subjective well-being vary in how dissatisfaction with the government affects their intention and participation in protests. Specifically, high levels of subjective well-being appear to mitigate the negative impact of governmental dissatisfaction. In line with our expectations, we found a positive relationship between dissatisfaction with governmental policies and the intention to engage in civic protests. This relationship was strengthened among individuals with low levels of subjective well-being, supporting our hypothesis that less satisfied individuals might be more inclined to express their discontent through civic protest.
The control variables of age and political self-efficacy surfaced as pivotal predictors, refining and complicating our understanding of the dynamics that steer protest behaviors in this context. Our findings discerned a positive correlation between political self-efficacy and the propensity for contemplation and involvement in civic protests. This correlation implies that within the unique socio-political ecosystem of Cuba, individuals who harbor a belief in their capability to instigate political change exhibit a heightened likelihood to entertain the idea of and to partake in protest activities actively. This inference suggests that fostering a sense of political efficacy amongst the Cuban populace could amplify civic engagement and political activism. In a society where the political arena is tightly controlled and regulated, the belief in one’s ability to effect change can serve as a powerful motivator for political involvement, counteracting the feelings of powerlessness and resignation that can pervade such restrictive environments. This insight could guide the formulation of interventions and strategies for enhancing political efficacy and catalyzing civic participation and dissent in authoritarian settings like Cuba, contributing to the broader dialogue on democratic transformations within such regimes.
One of the most significant aspects of this study is the use of primary data collected through CUBADATA. This research strategy is particularly important in the Cuban context, where governmental censorship and a lack of access to detailed information can severely hinder social and political research. Using an autonomous, population-focused data source, this study contributes empirical data to the existing literature and paves the way for future high-quality research in a typically restrictive environment. This method could serve as a model for other scholars seeking to understand social and political dynamics in authoritarian or closed regimes.

7. Implications

By shedding light on these intricate relationships, this study holds implications for both policy makers and activists aiming to understand and predict public responses to government policies. Future research may focus on identifying other factors that can explain the discrepancy between intention and actual action and on examining how these dynamics might vary in different sociopolitical contexts.

7.1. Academic Implications

  • New Frontiers in Research. As one of the first studies to employ CUBADATA, this study is a landmark in empirical investigation in Cuba. It underscores the importance of scrutinizing socio-political dynamics in settings where censorship and data inaccessibility have traditionally been the rule rather than the exception.
  • Conceptual Models. The findings bolster and extend existing theories on civic protest participation, satisfaction with government policies, and subjective well-being, particularly in authoritarian or restrictive environments.

7.2. Social and Political Implications

  • Political and Social Rights. This study highlights the suppressed exercise of political and social rights in Cuba, as evidenced by low scores in participation and intention to engage in protests and dissatisfaction with governmental policies. This should capture the attention of international human rights organizations and policy makers.
  • Subjective Well-Being. Despite political constraints, the average subjective well-being level appears to be moderate. This could spark discussions on resilience and adaptability in restrictive environments.
  • Motivations for Protest. Dissatisfaction with governmental policies emerges as a significant driver for protest activity, but its impact appears to be moderated by varying levels of subjective well-being. This suggests that strategies aimed at improving well-being could have a pacifying effect on protest tendencies.
  • Youth Challenges. Age is a significant predictor, implying that younger individuals may be more willing to challenge the status quo. This could carry implications for policy planning targeted at youth.

7.3. Methodological Implications

  • Scientific Rigor. Despite its limitations, this study sets a precedent for conducting rigorous empirical research in restrictive settings, paving the way for future investigations that can replicate or extend these methods and findings.
  • Statistical Models. Applying moderated mediation models provides a robust framework for understanding the complex interactions among the variables studied, which could be adopted in similar studies across different contexts.
In summary, our findings paint a nuanced picture of the dynamics surrounding civic protests in Cuba. The results reinforce the notion that political dissatisfaction and subjective well-being play a pivotal role in the intention to protest and the act of doing so. Understanding these factors is crucial for policy makers and activists in order to anticipate and comprehend public responses to governmental policies. Future research could identify additional factors that explain the discrepancy between intention and action and how these dynamics may vary across different socio-political settings.

8. Conclusions

This study has unveiled the multifaceted and pivotal role of subjective well-being within the intricate dynamics of political protest in authoritarian contexts, specifically in Cuba. We find that subjective well-being not only emerges from socio-political conditions but also actively shapes responses to these conditions. Our results confirm that lower satisfaction with governmental policies correlates with an increased intention to protest (H1), but the transition from intention to participation is complex and not directly proportional (H2). Subjective well-being significantly moderates how dissatisfaction with government policies translates into protest intentions (H3), but its role in converting these intentions into actions is more intricate and less direct (H4). This study thus broadens our understanding of the interplay between individual psychological states and political actions. By recognizing subjective well-being’s role as a moderator, we open new avenues for exploring how personal well-being interplays with political dissent and highlight the importance of considering both external conditions and internal states in empowerment and resistance strategies in oppressive contexts.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, A.V.-H.; methodology, Z.A.-G. and A.V.-H.; software, Z.A.-G.; validation, A.V.-H., D.L.-O. and M.A.-M.; formal analysis, A.V.-H.; investigation, A.V.-H.; resources, D.L.-O.; data curation, A.V.-H.; writing—original draft preparation, A.V.-H.; writing—review and editing, A.V.-H., D.L.-O., M.A.-M., I.C.-A. and Z.A.-G.; visualization, D.L.-O.; supervision, M.A.-M.; project administration, Z.A.-G.; funding acquisition, M.A.-M. and I.C.-A. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

Funding

This research received no external funding. The APC was funded by Federico Villarreal University.

Institutional Review Board Statement

The study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and approved by the Institutional Review Board of CubaData on 12 July 2023.

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.

Data Availability Statement

The data presented in this research is available on request from the corresponding authors.

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to express their gratitude to CubaData.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Figure 1. Conceptual model.
Figure 1. Conceptual model.
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Figure 2. Measurement model of constructs. Note: In circles, the average variance extracted (AVE) is indicated. In arrows, factor loadings are indicated.
Figure 2. Measurement model of constructs. Note: In circles, the average variance extracted (AVE) is indicated. In arrows, factor loadings are indicated.
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Figure 3. Average of the variables (as constructs).
Figure 3. Average of the variables (as constructs).
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Figure 4. Slope analysis of moderated mediation model. Note. Red line (−1 SD Subjective Well-being); green line (+1 SD Subjective Well-being). The average line was not included in order to facilitate comparison. (a) shows that dissatisfaction with government policies more significantly affects the intention to participate in civil protests for those with lower subjective well-being. This suggests that those more content with government policies are less inclined to protest, with well-being levels moderating this relationship. (b) illustrates that the intention to engage in civil protests slightly more strongly influences actual protest behavior among those with lower well-being. The relationship between protest intention and behavior is positive across all well-being levels but is not significantly moderated by well-being.
Figure 4. Slope analysis of moderated mediation model. Note. Red line (−1 SD Subjective Well-being); green line (+1 SD Subjective Well-being). The average line was not included in order to facilitate comparison. (a) shows that dissatisfaction with government policies more significantly affects the intention to participate in civil protests for those with lower subjective well-being. This suggests that those more content with government policies are less inclined to protest, with well-being levels moderating this relationship. (b) illustrates that the intention to engage in civil protests slightly more strongly influences actual protest behavior among those with lower well-being. The relationship between protest intention and behavior is positive across all well-being levels but is not significantly moderated by well-being.
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Table 1. Descriptive (means and Pearson correlations).
Table 1. Descriptive (means and Pearson correlations).
Variables123456
1. Intention to Participate in Civil Protests
2. Participation in Civil Protests0.468
3. Satisfaction with Government Policies−0.205−0.131
4. Subjective Well-Being−0.157−0.0910.379
5. Age−0.052−0.122−0.011−0.010
6. Self-Efficacy in Political Participation0.2810.325−0.102−0.0980.040
Mean3.9661.7482.0565.30241.9333.661
Standard Deviation2.7982.2452.3022.15713.2833.280
Kurtosis−0.9911.0840.364−0.503−0.840−1.310
Skewness0.2251.2921.108−0.0870.3020.296
Table 2. Conditional analysis of moderated mediation model.
Table 2. Conditional analysis of moderated mediation model.
Type of EffectCoefficientSTDEVtp-Value95% C.I.
LowerUpper
Conditional
Direct
Effects
High Level of Subjective Well-Being (+1 SD)
SGP → IPCP−0.1170.0462.5640.005−0.190−0.04
IPCP → PCP0.3120.0595.311<0.0010.2090.404
SGP → PCP−0.0370.0430.8600.195−0.1050.037
Average level of Subjective Well-Being
SGP → IPCP −0.1800.0404.463<0.001−0.244−0.112
IPCP → PCP0.3840.03411.149<0.0010.3220.435
SGP → PCP−0.0310.0420.7300.233−0.0990.040
Low level of Subjective Well-Being (−1 SD)
SGP → IPCP −0.2420.0623.875<0.001−0.340−0.135
IPCP → PCP0.4560.04210.91<0.0010.3840.522
SGP → PCP−0.0240.0650.3770.353−0.1290.085
Conditional
Indirect
Effects
Average level of Subjective Well-Being
SGP → IPCP → PCP−0.0690.0174.029<0.001−0.097−0.042
SWB → IPCP → PCP−0.0260.0161.5770.057−0.0530.001
High level of Subjective Well-Being (+1 SD)
SGP → IPCP → PCP−0.0370.0172.2090.014−0.068−0.013
SWB → IPCP → PCP−0.0210.0141.5270.063−0.0450.000
Low level of Subjective Well-Being (−1 SD)
SGP → IPCP → PCP−0.1100.0313.615<0.001−0.162−0.061
SWB → IPCP → PCP−0.0310.021.5620.059−0.0640.001
Control variables
Age → IPCP−0.0660.0351.8590.032−0.125−0.008
Age → PCP−0.1090.0313.479<0.001−0.161−0.058
SEPP → IPCP0.2570.0376.885<0.0010.1940.319
SEPP → PCP0.2120.0365.916<0.0010.1530.271
R squareIPCP0.1230.0254.836<0.0010.0810.161
PCP0.2780.0319.022<0.0010.2190.320
Note. Satisfaction with Government Policies (SGP), Intention to Participate in Civil Protests (IPCP), Participation in Civil Protests (PCP), Subjective Well-Being (SWB), and Self-Efficacy in Political Participation (SEPP).
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Vara-Horna, A.; Asencios-Gonzalez, Z.; López-Odar, D.; Aguirre-Morales, M.; Cirilo-Acero, I. The Role of Subjective Well-Being in Cuban Civil Protest against the Government: A Moderated Mediation Model. Soc. Sci. 2024, 13, 41. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13010041

AMA Style

Vara-Horna A, Asencios-Gonzalez Z, López-Odar D, Aguirre-Morales M, Cirilo-Acero I. The Role of Subjective Well-Being in Cuban Civil Protest against the Government: A Moderated Mediation Model. Social Sciences. 2024; 13(1):41. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13010041

Chicago/Turabian Style

Vara-Horna, Arístides, Zaida Asencios-Gonzalez, Dennis López-Odar, Marivel Aguirre-Morales, and Ingrid Cirilo-Acero. 2024. "The Role of Subjective Well-Being in Cuban Civil Protest against the Government: A Moderated Mediation Model" Social Sciences 13, no. 1: 41. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13010041

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