Jun 14, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Support for Black Lives Matter movement lowest in 3 years

Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans' support for the Black Lives Matter movement has fallen to its lowest point since the murder of George Floyd three years ago, according to a new survey of U.S. adults.

Why it matters: A slim majority of Americans (51%) still back BLM, but the movement aimed at tackling systemic racism has seen a sharp drop in support amid a conservative backlash — and reports of infighting and financial mismanagement of fledging BLM groups.

Zoom in: The support for BLM found in the survey by the Pew Research Center is a massive decrease from June 2020 — during the height of the protests over Floyd's death.

  • At that time, two-thirds of Americans said they supported the movement.
  • Meanwhile, opposition to BLM has grown. About 46% of Americans surveyed said they oppose it; just 31% said so three years ago.

Flashback: Video footage of Floyd's death at the hands of a Minneapolis officer was shared on social media and sparked millions of people to protest in cities across the nation during the peak of the pandemic.

Zoom in: Some of the changes — including increased recognition of LGBTQ rights — led to a conservative backlash that permeates the nation's politics today.

  • Now, deep divisions along political party, race and generational lines have shaped views of the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • The Pew survey found that 84% of Democrats and Democratic leaners support the movement, while 82% of Republicans and GOP leaners oppose it.
  • About 81% of Black adults say they support the movement, compared with 63% of Asian American adults, 61% of Latino adults and 42% of white adults.
  • About 64% of adults ages 18 to 29 support the movement, compared with 41% of those 65 and older.

Between the lines: After former President Trump's election loss in 2020, conservative activists launched a coordinated campaign against "critical race theory" by falsely claiming the graduate-school-level concept was widely taught in grade schools.

The intrigue: A coalition of Black Lives Matter chapters last year sued the BLM Global Network Foundation over allegations of defrauding the local activist groups.

What they're saying: "The idea that we have 400 years of oppression and all of a sudden we're going to steamroll ourselves into utopia... it's just not a reality," Rashad Robinson, president of the advocacy group Color Of Change, told Axios.

  • Robinson said opponents of racial justice are well-funded and will try to protect the status quo.
  • "They just needed to fight to keep things the same. We had to fight to change."

Methodology: The Pew Research Center survey of 5,073 U.S. adults was conducted April 10-16, 2023, using the Center's American Trends Panel.

  • The margin of sampling error is +/- 1.7 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample.
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