The Origins and Effects of the Antiracism Uprisings of 2020

Awarded Scholars:
Erica Chenoweth, Harvard University
Jeremy Pressman, University of Connecticut
Project Date:
Dec 2021
Award Amount:

Co-funded with the JPB Foundation

The mass demonstrations that followed the police killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, may be the largest and broadest collective mobilization in U.S. history. These demonstrations included not only progressive groups aligned with racial justice issues (e.g., antiracism, defunding police, reforming the carceral system, reinvesting in communities, etc.), but also counter-protests by pro-policing and pro-Trump groups. Given the massive turnout, what effects, if any, did these competing activities have on (1) the outcome of the 2020 U.S. elections, (2) reforms to policing practices in cities, and (3) broader policy changes? Political scientists Erica Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman will explore the degree to which patterns from the 2020 uprising and election conform to previous findings on where and how protest mobilization and counter-mobilization affect political outcomes and policy change. The project has four potential contributions. First, the investigators will produce an incident-level, observational dataset of protest, counter-mobilization, and police response, which will be combined with data on voter registration, voter turnout, and election outcomes. Second, they will measure the effects of antiracism protests and pro-police mobilization on voter turnout and electoral outcomes. Next, they will explore associations between structural and political factors and the incidence of 2020 antiracism protests to develop an explanation for what drives counter-protests and competing right-wing street mobilization or confrontations in some communities, but not others. Finally, in a 10-city comparative case analysis, they will catalogue policy concessions, policing reforms, and broader impacts that resulted from the demonstrations. 


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