Black Lives Matter Endures

February 20, 2022

In the Summer of 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement gained unprecedented international visibility during the widespread protest over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Though the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter dates back to 2013 (arising from the acquittal of George Zimmerman after the “shooting death” of Trayvon Martin), the movement’s 2020 mobilization quickly became the largest protest movement in United States history. Between 15 and 26 million Americans protested that summer, including tens of thousands of people across North Carolina.

A year and a half later, Carolina Forward’s polling finds that Black Lives Matter has maintained significant, albeit polarized, traction among North Carolina voters:

Backlash to "BLM" from the Right has been loud and strong - and when looking at overwhelming Republican voter opposition, it's easy to see why. Though a bit more than one-third of white voters (and rural ones) support BLM, 83% of Republicans oppose it - most of them "strongly." Support is concentrated in urban areas and with Black voters and Democrats.

These results may be compared with polling from early in 2021 that asked voters about the importance of racial justice:

One can clearly see a divergence here between support for Black Lives Matter and racial justice generally. This could be explained by negative associations with the Black Lives Matter "brand" - or respondents' desire to express support for racial justice only in abstract, and not material, terms.

The backlash to Black Lives Matter, like that to the Obama presidency, are still rippling through the American political landscape. It will be years before we truly understand its full effect. But what we know for sure is that the movement made an indelible impression on voters' minds - and continues to do so today. The struggle for racial justice is as old as the American experiment itself, and is far from complete - especially in North Carolina.

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