Skip to main content

DPP Research Seminar: From the Street to the Ballot Box? The BLM Protest Movement and Voting in U.S. Federal Elections

Michael Dorsch
Wednesday, December 7, 2022, 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm

This work in progress examines the extent to which issue-specific protests affect subsequent
voting behavior. Using the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest movement as our case of study,
we examine whether the BLM movement had a causal impact on voter turnout in federal
primary election contests of the major parties. Our identification strategy exploits the
staggered timing of primary elections across the states in 2016 and 2020. Considering the
murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 as an exogenous event, we compare a control group
of primary elections held before May 25 to a treatment group of primary elections held after
May 25. Our results indicate that the BLM movement had a negative impact on voter turnout
in 2020 compared to the same "treatment" in 2016 but did not affect vote shares of the major
parties. We then dig into public opinion data in order to explore the mechanisms that may
explain the negative turnout effect, finding that the BLM movement shifted public opinion on
issues of race relations and policing, but not more general political sentiments. We further
investigate whether direct local exposure to BLM protests had a differential impact on public
opinion and subsequent voting behavior.
In case you cannot attend the event in person, please register by mail at