Do Protest Tactics Matter? Evidence from the 1960s Black Insurgency and Ferguson
How do the subordinate few persuade the dominant many? This article links nonviolent and violent tactics employed by socially marginal protesters to conditional feelings of empathy or threat in the voting majority. I test this argument by estimating effects of black-led protest movements in the 1960s on white attitudes and voting behavior. In the 1964, 1968 and 1972 presidential elections, I find proximity to black-led nonviolent protests was associated with significant increases in county-level Democratic vote-share whereas proximity to black-led violent protests caused a substantively important decline. In counterfactual scenarios of Martin Luther King Jr. not being assassinated and fewer violent protests occurring before the 1968 election, the Democratic presidential nominee, Hubert Humphrey, would likely have beaten the Republican nominee, Richard Nixon. This research has important implications for existing theories of social movements, political violence and voting behavior.
The event is open to all members of the campus community.