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Study Identifies Factors That Predict Opposition to the Black Lives Matter Movement

Fatal police shootings of Blacks receive considerable media attention, along with debate about the merits of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Media coverage can be divisive, reflecting views held by the American public. Yet few studies have examined why some groups of people oppose BLM. A new study looked at a nationally representative sample of Americans to identify factors related to individuals (e.g., political affiliation, gender) and states (e.g., voting patterns) that predict opposition to BLM.

The study, conducted by researchers at Sam Houston State University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and the University of Texas at Dallas, appears in the journal Justice Quarterly, a publication of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

“News coverage of BLM is often divisive, which suggests that the movement sparks significant controversy among the public, state legislatures, and law enforcement agencies,” saysAlex R. Piquero, professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas, who led the study.

The study used a nationally representative sample of 2,114 people from 33 states and the District of Columbia to study opposition to and support for BLM. Data were collected in 2016, with researchers asking people how much they had heard about BLM. Those who said they had heard a lot or a little were asked a followup question about their level of support for or opposition to the movement. People who were unfamiliar with BLM were excluded from the study, as were those who said they didn’t know or declined to answer. In all, 31% of the people interviewed opposed BLM.

The study determined that older, Republican, conservatives, and males were more likely to oppose BLM, sharing some similarities demographically with those who support the death penalty. In contrast, Blacks and people who think their local police are biased racially against Blacks were less likely to oppose BLM.

The study also found that in states where Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, won a greater percentage of the vote in 2012, people were more likely to oppose BLM. In contrast, in states with more fatal shootings by police in 2015, people were slightly less likely to oppose the movement.

“Our findings suggest that the BLM movement is a politically polarizing issue, with redder states and individual Republicans more likely to oppose it,” notes Erin Orrick, assistant professor of criminal justice at Sam Houston State University, who coauthored the study. “This should put citizens and especially the police community on notice that the United States remains racially divided on some issues. Moreover, the success or failure of BLM has important implications for the future of democracy in this country.”

Summarized from Justice Quarterly, Red States and Black Lives: Applying the Racial Threat Hypothesis to the Black Lives Matter Movement by Updegrove, AH (Sam Houston State University), Cooper, MN (University of North Carolina at Charlotte), Orrick, EA (Sam Houston State University), and Piquero, AR (University of Texas at Dallas). Copyright 2018 The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. All rights reserved.

Contact Information
Caitlin Kizielewicz
Crime and Justice Research Alliance
(412) 554-0074