Wasow Research Widely Covered in Media: How 1960s Black Protests Moved Elites, Public Opinion and Voting

June 1, 2020

Omar Wasow's research on non-violent activism and violent protests is highlighted in The New York Times, Washington PostTPM, PBS NewsHour, CBS News, WHYY, FiveThirtyEight, Apple Podcasts with Yascha Mount, and MSNBC, among other media outlets. The New Yorker features an interview with Professor Wasow by Isaac Chotiner: How Violent Protests Change Politics, probing Wasow's research and addressing "which tactics worked best in the civil-rights era, what violent protests have meant, historically, for Democrats running for office, and whether Donald Trump is a figure of order or disorder."

Chris Hayes and Omar Wasow on screen

Wasow finds, in his recent paper (Agenda Seeding: How 1960s Black Protests Moved Elites, Public Opinion and Voting, published in the American Political Science Review) that in 1968, violent protests likely caused a 1.5–7.9% shift among whites toward Republicans and tipped the election.

Omar Wasow is assistant professor of politics at Princeton University and a CSDP faculty associate.

...nonviolent protests can be very effective if they are able to get media attention, and that there is a very strong relationship between media coverage and public concern about whatever issues those protesters are raising. But there is a conditional effect of violence, and what that means, in practice, is that groups that are the object of state violence are able to get particularly sympathetic press—and a large amount of media coverage. But that is a very hard strategy to maintain, and what we often see is that, when protesters engage in violence, often in a very understandable response to state repression, that tends to work against their cause and interests, and mobilizes or becomes fodder for the opposition to grow its coalition.