The Geography of the Resistance in the Streets

Where do the participants of the marches in Washington, DC call home?  Are they the most motivated protesters from around the country or are they coming in to the District from the local area?

A recent poll by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Fund found a surge in protesting in the US, finding that 1 in 5 Americans have protested since the beginning of 2016. In their series on political crowds for the Monkey Cage, Erica Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman have chronicled the millions of people who have turned out for these demonstrations around the country. However, we have yet to understand where people come from to participate in the Resistance in the Streets.

One of the questions on my survey is where people traveled from to attend.  With the responses from the 1,736 protest participants whom we sampled in the streets, I worked with Joshua Redmond and Lorien Jasny at the University of Exeter to map out the origins of what I call the Resistance in the Streets for the DC marches since the Resistance began.

In contrast to what many would expect (especially since these events were held concurrent with sister marches that took place all over the country), people reported traveling from around the US to participate in the main marches in Washington, DC. It is true that there was a large local presence with Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia ranking in the top five origins for participants at almost every Washington, DC March, (at the 2017 March for Science, the District of Columbia was not a top starting point).

Even though people traveled from all over the US to attend these marches, the representation from other states was not consistent across states.  In fact, representation was much higher from states on the West Coast than from more proximate states in the middle of America.

This map shows the origins of all of the participants sampled at large-scale protest events in DC since the inauguration: The 2017 Women’s March, the 2017 March for Science, the 2017 People’s Climate March, the March for Racial Justice, the 2018 Women’s March and the March for Our Lives. Taken together, we can see that participants at these events drew more from the coasts than from the middle of the US.

Although there are variations across each march, with some, like the locally coordinated 2018 Women’s March, drawing most participants from the East Coast, the pattern holds.  In other words, not only is the Resistance predominantly female and highly educated, the Resistance in the Streets of Washington DC is being (wo)manned by the coastal elite.Allmapranked


6 months Until the Mid-Terms…

It’s officially 6 months until the mid-term elections and the first big primary of 2018 is tomorrow.  Last but not least, my follow-up survey of people who were sampled participating in the Resistance in the Streets (ie at all the big demonstrations that have taken place since Donald Trump’s Inauguration) goes live today!

If you are one of the 844 people who were surveyed by my research team and provided an email address to participate in a follow-up, you will receive an invitation with a link to the survey today.  It’s brief and anonymous and asks about your experiences marching on Washington and participating in politics since the inauguration.

As with all research, the findings will only be as good as the data I collect.  Here’s hoping for good data to analyze!

Countdown to Next Wave of Data Collection

On Monday (6 months before the mid-term elections), I will be sending out a follow-up survey to my sample of participants in the Resistance in the Streets.

The survey asks for an update on civic and political activities, as well as about experiences participating in activities in communities and with ‘Resistance Groups.’  Finally, the survey asks people to list what they consider to be the top 3 issues facing the country today and what should be done about these issues.

Overall, these questions will take the temperature of the Resistance right now–about what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and why.

If you get a request to participate, please do!

Organizing Resistance in the Districts

Attached is my draft of Chapter 4, which focuses on Organizing Resistance in the Districts.  This chapter is likely to change substantially as election season heats up.  For now, though, it sets the stage regarding how “Resistance Groups” are organizing in the districts:  groups are maintaining a hyper-local focus that aims to fill what many Resistance Groups have identified as an infrastructural deficit left by the Democratic Party.  With an organizational landscape that is densely populated with overlapping interests, constituencies, and funding streams, conflict is assured despite how little conflict has been observed thus far.


Breaking up the Resistance in the Districts

I write with some major changes to the structure of American Resistance (the book project, not the movement):  While doing the fieldwork collecting data with protesters at various events and interviewing so-called Resistance Groups about their work in the districts, I realized that there was a missing piece to this puzzle.

As a result, I am breaking the Resistance in the Districts chapter into two:  one chapter about individual resistance and the other about the groups that are working to organize this resistance.

Organizing Resistance in the Districts, which will now be chapter 4 in the book, will go live VERY SOON (before the end of the month).   The newly added chapter on individual resistance will be based on follow-up data collected from the participants at various protests since the Resistance began.

WARNING: If you filled out a survey at a large-scale protest in Washington, DC with someone from my research team (on our pink tablets) and said you were willing to participate in a follow-up, expect to hear from me in early May once my IRB Protocol is approved!




What to expect:

And the Marches Keep Coming

This weekend, the second March for Science will take place in Washington DC and 230 other ‘sister marches’ around the world.

There’s no question that the flagship March in Washington, DC will have better weather–last year it was chilly with lots of rain.  Research has corroborated what you might expect: nice weather is  associated with higher turnout at marches and demonstrations (as well as all sorts of other outdoor activities). Even with the predicted rain-free warm day, it’s unclear how many people will actually turn out.  I will not be fielding a research team this weekend since the crowd in Washington, DC is not expected to be larger than 50,000 people, which is my threshold for considering an event a “large-scale demonstration” and studying it.

For my findings from data collected at last year’s March for Science, which turned out an estimated 100,000 people see this recent paper in Sociological Forum.  Here’s Table 1:ScientistsInTheResistance

Teachers in Red States Resist

At the same time that the survivors from the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida were leading political resistance around gun control, teachers in a number of Red states have gone on strike. So far, teachers have walked out in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky, and it is possible that other states will join in soon.

There is no question that these strikes are motivated by grievances specific to the education systems in these states, however there are some striking similarities between these teachers and the participants to the Resistance in the Street that I have been studying.  Here is a table comparing the demographics at the major marches in the Resistance. Like the teachers who are currently on strike, the majority are highly educated white women and many of them are coordinating specifically via social media.


The Challenges of Doing Public Social Science

I started this site as a means of getting my findings out to the public quickly so the work can contribute to the conversation about the Resistance and where it is going in America.  To that end, I post drafts of chapters as they are written, provide summaries of preliminary findings, and give an overview of the research process generally as the work develops.  Last week I experienced first hand just how challenging doing public sociology can be.

Like previous large-scale marches since the Inauguration, I collected data with a research team in Washington DC at the March for Our Lives.   The results from the data we collected from 256 individuals randomly sampled throughout the crowd yielded very interesting results.  The findings were different than expected (in terms of the ages of the people who turned out) and different from my findings from samples collected at previous marches in the Resistance (in terms of the motivations of the new people who participated)–see my previous post for a summary.  I presented some of these preliminary findings on Morning Joe on the following Monday (the 26th) and gave the highlights.  I was also asked to write up a piece for the Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post.

These findings were then picked up by Fox, the National Review, and Breitbart and I started getting nasty emails and phone calls.   The pieces framed my work as exposing the bias in the media narrative that had focused exclusively on the teens who organized the event, calling it a “student movement.” On Friday, Vox ran a piece focusing more deeply on the findings that got so much attention initially.  Then, Steve Kornacki presented my preliminary findings on MSNBC and spoke a little about the implications of these preliminary numbers with a panel on his show.

Overall, the work is getting out in the public sphere as I intended but it is a huge challenge:  first, I am used to working on a much different timeline–usually, I spend months doing data analysis and writing up my findings before it is even submitted for peer review (let alone published); second, I continue to be surprised that most people in the media do not wanted to hear/discuss interpretations of my findings with me.  Instead, they extrapolate on the preliminary (and relatively simplistic descriptive) analyses themselves.  There is no question that doing public sociology is worth it.  I just hope to learn from this experience and do it better moving forward…

The March for Our Lives Joins #theResistance

This past weekend, streets around the US and beyond were flooded with rallies once again, this time for the March for Our Lives.   The March in DC is estimated to have brought out up to 800,000 people to rally around the issue of Gun Control.

I was in the crowds in DC, surveying with a 6-person research team  (and my daughter who experienced her first protest and her first exposure to doing social science all on one day!).  Based on our sample of 256 participants that was collected from throughout the crowd there are some very notable findings:

  • Although the March was called by the Parkland students, most of the crowd was adults (only 9.7% of the crowd was under 18) and the average age of the adults participating was higher than at any other event that I have studied since the  Resistance began after Donald Trump’s Inauguration.
  • The March turned out a lot of new people to protest.  27% of March participants were completely new to protest (vs 16% at the 2018 Women’s March).
  • The March turned out a lot of political moderates.  16% of March participants identified as politically moderate (the highest percentage at any march since the Resistance began).
  • New people reported being much less motivated by the issue of Gun Control to participated (12% versus 60% of people who had participated in a protest before).

Overall, these findings suggest that free music and young people helped expand the tent at this event.  The question that remains is whether these people will stay involved in the issue of Gun Control and become active members of the Resistance?

Patterns of Intersectional Motivations Across the Resistance

” Why Are We Here? Patterns of Intersectional Motivations Across the Resistance,” which is an updated and expanded version of work that I first presented on this site is now available at SocArXiv.  The paper looks across the large-scale protest events of 2017 to understand the patterns of motivations that mobilized participants.

Similar analyses for the 2018 Women’s March is in the works and we will also run them for the March for our Lives once we have data to see how the patterns change.  With such a diverse range of groups calling for participation in the March this weekend–including the Hip Hop Caucus and Moms Demand Action–these patterns may be very different.