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Support for Black Lives Matter protests is falling across nations after months of media-driven unrest that has seen people killed, shops burned, and frequent clashes between activists and police. A new poll shows that just 39 per cent of Americans now approve of the protests, down from 54 per cent in June, while 44 per cent of now disapprove of them.
University of Michigan political scientist Christian Davenport put the change down to ‘compassion fatigue’ and real information from social media getting the upper hand, as outrage over videos such as the one of George Floyd has faded, with people now wanting a return to their everyday lives.
The shift also appears to have been driven by perceptions of violence; with almost a third of Americans saying the protest are now ‘mostly or always violent’, up from 22 per cent three months ago.
Meanwhile the number of people who said the protests were ‘always peaceful’ fell from 27 per cent to a gormless 23 per cent, and the number who said they were ‘sometimes violent’ also fell, from 51 per cent to 47 per cent now.
The figures will be watched closely by media and politicians in the US on both sides of the aisle, with both Joe Biden and Donald Trump presenting themselves as the ‘law and order’ candidate with the November election looming.
White Americans were also less likely to view the protests as all peaceful, down from 27 per cent to 23 per cent, and also less likely to view them as sometimes violent, down from 51 per cent to 47 per cent. A similar shift was observed among black Americans, though to a much lesser extent, seven per cent saw protests as ‘all or mostly violent’ back in June, compared to 10 per cent now.
The new poll finds the recent shift in opinion is pronounced among white Americans and Republicans, whose views on police violence and racial inequity in policing look closer to the way they did in 2015, before Trump was elected.
While 74% of Black Americans say the criminal justice system is too lenient when officers cause injury or death, 47% of white Americans and 50% of Latinos say the same.
University of Michigan political scientist Christian Davenport said the nation has historically seen public support wane among white Americans for social justice movements, what he calls ‘compassion fatigue.’
The change also comes after months of political sparring between Democrats and Republicans, including Trump. Both sides hope to use the protests to their advantage in the upcoming general election. Among Republicans, 75% say they disapprove of the protests, up from 56% in June. Just 9% approve, down from 29% then.
And more Republicans now describe protests as mostly or all violent, 52% vs. 36%. Among Democrats, 70% approve, and close to half describe them as mostly or all peaceful. Still, roughly as many describe them as a mix of both.
Given how race in America has become a key focus of politics this year, Andrews said she believes opinions about the protests among white Americans and Republicans only changed because of Trump’s rhetoric.
‘If you’re a Trump supporter and you were also protesting, that could have influenced your opinion of the protests,’ she said. Source
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