Are violent or nonviolent protests more effective?

Nonviolence appears more effective in at least the majority of situations.

Survey experiments have tested people's attitudes and found that support for political movements drops when they use violence, block traffic or vandalize property; on the other hand, such tactics could be effective by raising awareness or by coercion.

A comprehensive study of political movements from 1900 to 2006 showed that nonviolent political movements are twice as successful as violent ones, even when facing dictatorships, and argued that nonviolence is a cause of success rather than merely being correlated.

Black-led violent protests in America have been particularly studied. Unrest in 1968 shifted votes towards the Republican Party, according to a study using rainfall as a pseudo-random instrument. Unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 2020 appear to have had the same effect, according to statistical estimates by Political Kiwi, The Economist and Lakshya Jain. These examples suggest that violent protests are electorally counterproductive. On the other hand, unrest arguably helped pressure the government to pass civil rights legislation in the 1960s. Unrest also appears to have dissuaded police departments from proactively policing Black neighborhoods since 2016, which may or may not have been a goal of violent protestors.

Meanwhile, a large literature shows straightforwardly effective impacts from nonviolent protests or protests in general (see this study and prior research).

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