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Study: Violent '60s Protests Triggered Rise in Conservative Voting

Study: Violent '60s Protests Triggered Rise in Conservative Voting
Black demonstrators face armed federal soldiers in Newark on July 17, 1967 during riots that erupted in the town following a police operation. (AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 26 May 2015 09:46 PM

Riots elicit a hostile, right-wing response, a new study shows.

The finding by Omar Wasow, an assistant professor at the department of politics at Princeton, comes in his paper titled, "Nonviolence, Violence and Voting: Effects of the 1960s Black Protests on White Attitudes and Voting Behavior."

But it has some intriguing implications for cities roiled by anti-police brutality protests that have escalated into riots, New York magazine reports.

"If the violent protests in Ferguson and Baltimore supercede nonviolent protest, Wasow’s research implies that the liberal moment might give way to another reactionary era," New York magazine reports.

According to the magazine, Wasow looked at the nonviolent civil-rights demonstrations and urban rioting during the 1960s, honing in on the change in public opinion from 1964, when Lyndon Johnson swept to victory with a liberal, pro-civil rights campaign, and 1968, when Richard Nixon won on the basis of a "social backlash."

One of the ways he looked at the problem was by focusing at county-by-county voting and comparing it with violent and nonviolent protest activity.

"Examining county-level voting patterns, I find that black-led protests in which some violence occurs are associated with a statistically significant decline in Democratic vote-share in the 1964, 1968, and 1972 presidential elections," Wasow writes.

"Black-led nonviolent protests, by contrast, exhibit a statistically significant positive relationship with county-level Democratic vote-share in the same period."

He says he found in the 1968 presidential election "exposure to violent protests caused a decline in Democratic vote-share."

"Examining counterfactual scenarios in the 1968 election, I estimate that fewer violent protests are associated with a substantially increased likelihood that the Democratic presidential nominee, Hubert Humphrey, would have beaten the Republican nominee, Richard Nixon," he writes.

"As African Americans were strongly identified with the Democratic party in this time period, my results suggest that, in at least some contexts, political violence by a subordinate group may contribute to a backlash among segments of the dominant group and encourage outcomes directly at odds with the preferences of the protesters."

The study concluded nonviolent civil-rights protests didn't trigger a national backlash — but violent protests and looting did.

"The physical damage inflicted upon poor urban neighborhoods by rioting does not have the compensating virtue of easing the way for more progressive policies; instead, it compounds the damage by promoting a regressive backlash," the magazine writes.

And that backlash during the Nixon years, the magazine reports, "drove a wave of repressive criminal-justice policies that carried through for decades with such force that even Democrats like Bill Clinton felt the need to endorse them in order to win elections."

John Sides, an associate professor of political science at George Washington University, says Wasow’s paper isn't trying to address contemporary politics.

"But an obvious question is whether his findings have implications for the potential impact of the protests after the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray," Sides writes in the Washington Post.

"On the one hand, there are obviously many, many differences between the 1960s protests and those in 2014-2015 … To pick just one, the 1960s protests were larger and more numerous."

But on the other hand, he writes, "Wasow’s paper is a theory about how nonviolent and violent protests have a different psychological impact. This theory could have some relevance now," including that violent protests create a "'circle the wagons' mentality motivated by a concern for safety."

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Riots elicit a hostile, right-wing response, a new study shows. The finding by Omar Wasow, an assistant professor at the department of politics at Princeton, comes in his paper titled, "Nonviolence, Violence and Voting: Effects of the 1960s Black Protests on White Attitudes...
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Tuesday, 26 May 2015 09:46 PM
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