Majority says protests, boycotts can improve the situation of Black Americans: poll

Bonnie Cash

A majority of respondents to a new poll say peaceful protests and economic efforts such as boycotts can help improve lives for Black Americans amid a national reckoning over systemic racism and police brutality. 

A new Gallup poll released Wednesday showed that 77 percent of adults think that nonviolent protests could help Black people “improve their situation in this country,” while just 6 percent think those efforts will hurt. Sixty-six percent think that legal action will help, and 50 percent think economic actions such as boycotts will improve the situation of African Americans. 

Only 12 percent think violent protests help, and even among those who are sympathetic to violent protests, only 8 percent of adults overall think they’re justified. 

Responses to the poll differed along racial lines, with white people being more convinced than Black adults by a 78-72 percent margin that nonviolent protests will help, while Black adults were more confident in legal actions by 9 points and economic actions by 21 points. 

The support for nonviolent protests, legal challenges and boycotts has risen since 1988, the last time Gallup polled on the topic. Support for nonviolent protests rose by 9 points, support for legal actions saw a 4-point bump and 21 percent more of adults think economic actions could help Black Americans. Much of those increases have come from boosted support for the measures by white Americans. 

The poll comes as protesters across the country demand new efforts to rectify racial inequities in the aftermath of high-profile killings of unarmed Black people such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others. The majority of the demonstrations have remained nonviolent, though some have broken out into looting and clashes with law enforcement. 

President Trump has seized on the protests, casting himself as a law-and-order candidate and warning that “anarchy” from cities could seep into the suburbs, though that messaging appears to fly in the face of the broad support in the poll for nonviolent demonstrations.   

The Gallup poll surveyed 1,226 adults from June 8 to July 24 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Tags Activism Boycott Civil disobedience Community organizing Donald Trump Nonviolence Protest racial inequality systemic racism
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