The Current Mass Mobilization against Systemic Racism: Effects on Democracy and Politics

Awarded Scholars:
Dana R. Fisher, University of Maryland, College Park
Stella M. Rouse, University of Maryland, College Park
Michael T. Heaney, University of Glasgow
Project Date:
Jul 2020
Award Amount:
$49,957

The murder of George Floyd in May 2020 sparked peaceful protests, riots, vandalism, vigils, and many other forms of activism across the U.S. and around the world. The unprecedented levels of participation by White Americans potentially represent a significant shift in intergroup relations among activists that might reflect changes in their attitudes, views of democracy, and organizational engagement. Sociologist Dana Fisher and political scientists Michael Heaney and Stella Rouse will investigate whether and how activists changed their views and participation over time. Drawing on original surveys conducted with people engaged in protest before and after Floyd’s death, this research focuses on issue priorities, tactical approaches, support for political violence, satisfaction with democracy, prioritization of intersectional activism, the changing nature of mass mobilizations, and organizational ties as indicators of social movement activities. The researchers hypothesize both positive and negative effects on democracy and politics stemming from the protests. Positive effects are anticipated through bridging typically divided communities of Black and White activists. Negative effects are anticipated through the development of more critical views of American democracy and the tools needed to navigate it. To test these hypotheses, they will conduct two types of surveys: 1) an internet-based follow-up survey of previous respondents to Fisher’s earlier surveys during the Trump presidency to examine how the attitudes and participation of respondents changed from the pre-Floyd to post-Floyd periods, and 2) crowd surveys will be conducted at three mass mobilizations – in Washington, DC, New York City and Los Angeles – focused on systemic racism and on women’s rights.

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