The Partisans and the Persuadables: Public Views of Black Lives Matter and the 2020 Protests

The Partisans and the Persuadables: Public Views of Black Lives Matter and the 2020 Protests

By Kevin Drakulich and Megan Denver, Northeastern University

In the spring and summer of 2020, a remarkable number of Americans participated in a remarkable number of protests in support of Black Lives Matter. How did the general public understand these protests, and where does support for the movement stand overall? We answer this question by drawing on several national surveys from 2020 and then examining the results of a framing experiment we conducted in June 2020. We structure the story we find in two parts—the partisans and the persuadables—both of whom are important to understanding public views of Black Lives Matter. Democrats and Republicans differ strongly in their views of the movement but are similar in the firmness of those views, which did not change in response to our framing experiment. Nonpartisans, in contrast, were more persuadable, though their reactions to some of our frames were conditioned by racial resentment. We conclude by setting the movement in historical context and assessing its impact, which we describe as complicated and contradictory but consequential.