Abstract: Support for Black Lives Matter: Consciousness Raising, Political Ideology, and Mobilization (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Support for Black Lives Matter: Consciousness Raising, Political Ideology, and Mobilization

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 13, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Jason Anthony Plummer, MSW, MUP, NA, University of California, Los Angeles
Laura Wray-Lake, PhD, Associate Professor, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Background and Purpose

The development of critical consciousness (CC), awareness of injustice coupled with a desire to remedy it, increases support for social justice actions (Watts & Guessous, 2006). Racial resentment – believing that African Americans are culturally different, ask for special treatment, and should work harder – may explain why White Americans have more negative feelings toward Black Lives Matter (BLM) than African Americans and other marginalized groups. Conservative ideology, generational differences, and aversion to political violence are additional competing reasons for differing views on the BLM movement. Understanding the possible roots of racial differences in support for the BLM movement has implications for policies designed to address police brutality.


Data come from the 2016 American National Election Survey (ANES), which surveyed a representative sample of U.S. eligible voters from September 2016 to January 2017. Respondents were between ages 18 and 90 (N = 4,150; Mage = 49.58, SD = 17.58). Self-identified racial/ethnic demographics were 71.7% White, 9.4% non-Latinx Black, 10.6% Latinx, 3.5% Asian, and 4.8% other. The ANES has 14 items that allowed for measuring Critical consciousness come from 14 items on 5-point Likert scales including awareness of discrimination and desire to achieve equity. To assess the countervailing ideas of political violence, an item asked, “How much do you feel it is justified for people to use violence to pursue their political goals in this country?” (1 = “None at all” to 5 “A great”). Political ideology came from a single item ranging from strongly conservative to strongly liberal. Racial resentment included four items to assess attitudes towards Blacks. These items along with race/ethnicity were examined as predictors of the ANES Black Lives Matter feelings thermometer, where values ranged from 0 (very cold or unfavorable feeling) to 100 (very warm or favorable).


When it comes to supporting Black Lives Matter (BLM), on average, American voters have neutral feelings about the movement. White Americans rate BLM at 42, Latinx and Native Americans at 58, Asian Americans 52, and African Americans rate the movement at 80. Possessing critical consciousness was associated with higher ratings of BLM, (β = .128, p < .001), as was self-identifying as liberal (β = .128, p < .001). Those who believed that political violence was unacceptable and who possessed racial resentment were less likely to support BLM (β = -.048, β = -.478, p’s < .001). Being a Millennial, between the ages of 18 and 35, was not statistically significant.

Conclusion and Implications

            Building support for groups like BLM is tied to increasing awareness of structural discrimination and desires to remedy that discrimination. However, this is only one facet of mobilization efforts. Given that racial resentment significantly reduces support, consciousness efforts should also focus on reducing racial attitudes. Additionally, attitudes regarding political violence negatively affected support for the movement. Thus, media reports that framed the movement as violent may have deterred support. The significant ideological findings, but not age, suggest that the need for a renewed interest in how youth develop political ideologies.