Coming Out the Other Side of the Issue-Attention Cycle

In 1972, Anthony Downs published a piece about the “Issue Attention Cycle,”  which specifically looked at the relationship between public opinion and media coverage.  Overall, he observed how an environmental problem “suddenly leaps into prominence, remains there for a short time, and then–though still largely unresolved–gradually fades from the center of public attention.”  Since its publication in the early ’70s, this cycle has been applied to numerous social issues.  Now, in the 10 days since the 2018 Women’s March, we have seen the issue-attention cycle focus briefly on the American Resistance and how it is mobilizing people to engage in resistance in the streets and then move on.

I had the opportunity to experience this cycle first-hand over the past week as I presented some preliminary findings on the most recent Women’s March on Morning Joe, the TakeAway as well as other media outlets.  Although the most accurate estimates report that around 2 million people marched over the anniversary of the Women’s March, attention quickly shifted away from the persistence of the resistance. I discussed this issue of waning/lacking media coverage briefly on the Thom Hartmann show last week, and it was the focus of a piece in Elle as well as Medium.

As President Trump addresses the nation in his first State of the Union tonight, I expect that the media will gloss over the fact that there has been sustained political engagement in the American Resistance since the day the Trump Administration began.  Whether the media cover this issue or not, there is no question that it is having an effect on politics in America and will change the way people engage in Democracy in America for generations to come.

What can we learn from Women’s March 2018?

I spoke about some of the preliminary findings from the data we collected this past weekend on Morning Joe and the Takeaway this morning.   Here is a summary of some of the other findings:

Participants have gotten involved and stayed involved in the Resistance:  130 participants (79.3%) reported also participating in the Women’s March on 21 January 2017, 67 (40.6%) reported also participating in the March for Science on 22 April 2017, and 43 (26.4%) reported also participating in the People’s Climate March on 29 April 2017, 38 (23.3%) reported also participating in the Equality March on 11 June 2017, and 27 (16.7%) reported also participating in the March for Racial Justice in Washington, DC on 30 September 2017.

Almost everyone (99.5% of respondents) said that the outcome of the 2016 election was important to their decision to participate in the 2018 Women’s March.

The 2018 Women’s March drew in people beyond mainstream Democrats: 84.5% reported being Left leaning, 10.8% reported being moderate/middle of the road, and 4.1% reported being Right leaning in their political orientation (total of 15%),  vs only 7% total at the Women’s March in 2017. In contrast to the 2017 March where over 90% of the participants reported voting for Clinton, 85% of participants in the 2018 Women’s March did.

The 2018 Women’s March participants had very high levels of educational attainment. Three quarters had a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, 78% were women and 77% were white (which is very similar to the demographic breakdown of educated Americans).  Identical to the 2017 event, the average age of participants at the 2018 Women’s March was 43 years old.


Resistance In the Streets Persists

On the one year anniversary of the Women’s March, (which took place on the anniversary of the Inauguration of Donald Trump and on the morning after the government shutdown), people took to the streets around the country once again.  Over 235 marches were scheduled to take place on the anniversary of the march this weekend.  Based on photos of these events and my experiences in Washington, DC, turnout was impressive.  Attached Chapter 2, which summarizes Resistance in the Streets over its first year.

Stay tuned for a summary of the data we collected from a random sample of 204 participants at the Women’s March today!

Chapter 2_ResistanceInTheStreets_FINAL

Talking About what Drives People to Engage

I had the pleasure of speaking at the Arab American Institute’s Generation Event last night to discuss social change in America. It was a wonderful opportunity to talk with people who are thinking about civic participation in America today and to share the results of my work on the Resistance.

Chapter 2: Resistance in the Streets goes live this weekend.  I plan to post it on Saturday morning before I head out to survey participants at the Women’s March on Washington 2018.  Although the event in DC won’t turn out the huge crowds we saw last year, I am heartened to see that people are planning to march this year in their own communities.  More than 250 events have been scheduled to take place around the US to commemorate the anniversary of the Women’s March.





Honoring Dr. King’s Legacy

My 6 year-old son came home from Kindergarten yesterday and asked me why Dr. King marched in the streets and why he went to jail.  In the wake of the President’s hateful comments, I tried hard to explain the history of race-relations in America and highlight the progress that has been made.  Quickly, however, the conversation with my kids turned into a discussion of how America is a living and breathing experiment in democracy and that we still have much work to do.

MLK Day on Monday falls a week before the anniversary of the Women’s March–the largest protest in America’s history and the spark that ignited the Resistance. Chapter 2:  Resistance in the Streets goes live on that anniversary next week.  In the meantime,  as we celebrate , remember that Dr. King’s legacy lives on in right here and right now.


Protests Resume in 2018

Happy 2018!

As the new year gets rolling, a number of marches have been scheduled around the US.  Although the organizers of the Women’s March are focusing their #PowerToThePolls in Nevada, events are scheduled around the country to commemorate the anniversary of the Women’s March on the weekend of January 20-21st.  The following weekend–on January 27th–the People’s March on Washington has been called.  It will be interesting to see if this new wave of events grows as we move towards the Mid-term elections and if the 2018 events turn out larger crowds than the marches that took place during the later part of 2017.  For all large marches in DC (with more than 50,000 people expected), I intend to field a research team to collect data to add to my Resistance in the Streets dataset.

Speaking of Chapter 2: Resistance in the Streets, the chapter goes live on this site on the anniversary of the Women’s March (21 January 2018).  In the meantime, I’m spending much of my January interviewing people involved in the Resistance in the Districts, which is chapter 3 of the book.

Updated Resistance Timeline and #MeToo

Today I finished chapter 2 on Resistance in the Streets. I am hoping that it will be through peer-review to be posted by the 1-year anniversary of the Women’s March in January so stay tuned…

Here is an updated timeline of Resistance in the Streets.  I’ve added in #TakeAKnee, which has clearly responded to the actions of the President.

It’s not yet clear if #MeToo belongs up on this timeline but I am monitoring it. We will have to see the degree to which it joins the Resistance in terms of its focus on the Trump Administration and its policies.


Scientists in The Resistance

Today my piece specifically focused on the March for Science was published at Sociological Forum.  The article is part of a “Forum” on science and activism

In the piece, I analyze how participants at the March for Science compare to a broader sample of participants in the Resistance. Although they have some unique characteristics, my findings show that there are few statistically significant differences between participants in the March for Science and others participating in the Resistance. Also, in contrast to what some might expect, participants in the March for Science were no more educated than participants at the other two marches. In fact, participants in the Women’s March in January 2017 had the highest levels of educational attainment of all with 87% of participants holding a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Although they aren’t statistically significant, when we compare across protest events, we see clear evidence that protesters in the streets are also engaging in other forms of civic engagement.  Looking at two actions that have been encouraged by many groups in the Resistance—contacting an elected official or attending a town hall meeting—participation was high: 63% reported contacting an elected official in the past year and 43% reported attending a town hall meeting.  This figure from the article shows how these rates are going up.ScientistsInTheResistance

Mapping Resistance in the Streets

While working on Chapter 2, which focuses on Resistance in the Streets,  I realized there’s a real need for a Resistance Timeline.  Here is my first attempt to map Resistance in the Streets since the inauguration.  It includes the largest and most politically salient protests since the Inauguration of Donald Trump.


When we look specifically at the frequency and turnout of marches, this timeline indicates that the Resistance in the Streets is dying down.  However, there are a number of questions that need to be answered to interpret it:  Are Americans experiencing protest fatigue? Are they channeling their efforts into other types of Resistance?  Or, have they given up the fight?

As I continue to write while collecting data on the many forms of American Resistance, it is my intention to answer these questions.