Tag Archives: public opinion

Are students using elites or are elites using students, or both?

The Québec provincial election is a few days away and despite an ongoing conversation about holding a truce, student activists continued their use of disruptive tactics (most recently at the Université de Montréal). Student mobilization has become a central feature of the 2012 provincial election. But, who stands to benefit most from student protest?

Leaders in the student movement have sought to use the election to address grievances regarding tuition increases (although, as I have written in a previous blog and as others have noted, it is unclear whether tuition is truly driving mobilization or whether it triggered underlying discontent). The more militant organization, CLASSE, as well as other movement figures has been associated with the nationalist Parti Québécois (PQ). Indeed, Pauline Marois, leader of the PQ brought in activist leader Léo Bureau-Blouin as a PQ candidate in a district north of Montreal. Student activists presumably see a PQ electoral victory as a potential victory of their own as Marois proclaimed that the PQ will cancel any tuition increases within its first 100 days in office. It is not surprising then that student protesters have sought to mobilize particularly in districts where they believe the youth vote will make the difference in defeating the Liberal Party and Premier Jean Charest.

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Protest, Elections and Public Opinion

Summers in Montreal usually mean festivals; whether Just for Laughs or the Jazz Fest. But, with an impending election, Montrealers this summer are wondering whether student protests will influence the upcoming Québec provincial election. Protests were first activated by the threat of a tuition hike, but quickly became about something bigger (see my May 10th post). One development has been the so-called radicalization of the protests, particularly organizations like CLASSE, accused of undermining negotiations with the government and as being aligned with the current opposition party, the sovereigntist Parti Québécois. It became clear, fairly early on, that the greatest obstacle for student protesters was convincing Quebeckers that the protests were more than just about tuition, that they are symptomatic of a bigger socio-structural problem, and that disruption is necessary (see my May 25th post). Unfortunately for protesters, public opinion has not been on their side. Continue reading


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Opposition without (Much) Action: Iraq the Later Years

By Lisa Leitz

The number and scale of national protests aimed at ending the Iraq War were significantly smaller beginning in 2007 than they had been in the earlier years and lead-up to the war (see Heaney & Rojas’s 2011).


While many in the peace movement remained active as the Iraq War continued for five more years, their political actions were much more fragmented and radicalized from 2007 onward. The diminishing size and scope of Iraq War protests contradict public opinion because it was not as though the war became popular among Americans in its later years. Instead while public opinion about the Iraq War became more negative, large political actions against the war decreased. In this essay, I examine how civilians’ distance from the Iraq War contributed to this contradiction. Continue reading


Filed under Essay Dialogues, The Iraq War Protests: 10 Years Later

Civilian Deaths and Radicalism

As we are involved in a heated debate about Obama’s kill list and controversial drone attacks in Pakistan, it is timely to ask whether American public sufficiently comprehends seriousness of the issue of civilian deaths, which poses a great danger in fighting against terrorist networks and radical movements. In his new book, The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America’s Wars (Oxford University Press, 2011), John Tirman presents a compelling argument to explain why a culture of public “indifference” still dominates.

According to Tirman, there are three major reasons behind this lack of public attention: racism (i.e. Americans’ lives are more important than some other people’s lives), frontier myth (i.e. a strong belief in USA’s mission in world politics), and psychological aversion (i.e. just too much burden for someone to think about these disturbing issues). Examining Korean War, Vietnam War, and recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tirman also indicates how American public were made in dark, and thus, were deceived about number of civilian deaths. At the outset of the Iraqi war,  only 73 of 18000 news stories on the major networks mentioned Iraqi casualties. By 2008, during the time American public supported to pull out of the country, any coverage of the Iraq war went down to 3 per cent Continue reading


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Studying The Public Response to Police & Protesters

It is widely recognized that police and protesters compete for the moral high ground, as the iconic image from the US civil rights reminds us.

Christian Davenport and I have begun a Civil Society and Democratic Expression research initiative that we hope will serve as a model for how we should collect data so that we can better study the street politics of social movements. Matt Baggetta kindly posted about the “within the protest” street portion of the project, and we will post soon about our effort to also document the police deployment “behind the scenes” during large events such as the recent march and rally in Chicago organized by the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda.

Because the street politics of protest can be understood as a competition between protesters and police to earn the moral high ground we believe it is vital to study not only the interactions of protesters and police on the street, but also the resulting press coverage and public opinion. Continue reading


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On Tides and Counter Tides

By Brian Powell

I was invited to contribute to this essay exchange a few weeks ago.  In that short period of time:

  • Governor Chris Gregoire signed Washington’s marriage equality bill into law.
  • The Maryland state legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill that was strongly supported by Governor Martin O’Malley.
  • The New Jersey state legislature voted in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples.
  • More than 150 mayors from over 30 states signed a pledge to support the “freedom to marry.”
  • A judicial panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Proposition 8, California’s gay marriage ban, is unconstitutional.
  • U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White became the second judge to invalidate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
  • Just three years after voters in Maine voted to repeal the law that had legalized same-sex marriage, supporters of marriage equality have collected the signatures needed to bring the issue of same-sex marriage back to a referendum.

Many supporters of marriage equality and, more broadly, LGBT rights—and perhaps some opponents as well—may see these events as evidence that the “tide has turned.” Others might not be as convinced. The tides of change are often followed by counter tides.  Continue reading


Filed under Essay Dialogues, LGBT Activism: Has the Tide Turned?

Has the abortion issue been reopened in Canada and what does this mean for social movements?

Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals legalized abortion and homosexuality in the late 1960s. The last time abortion was a serious political issue in Canada was twenty years ago when the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney introduced a bill that would limit abortion. The bill passed the House of Commons but was defeated in the Senate. Since then, abortion has hardly made an appearance in Parliament nor has it been a central feature of political campaigns. However, in the last few years, a growing unrest among mostly Conservative, but also a small minority of Liberal Party members have pushed to reopen the question of abortion. According to a recent Dec. 21st Globe and Mail article, a Conservative backbencher, Stephen Woodworth, is seeking to reopen the issue of abortion. However, the question does not directly implicate “abortion” and in the press, it seems the term is largely avoided. Rather, as Woodworth stated in a press conference, “… the Canadian statute that defines a human being as someone who is completely separate from the mother’s body has its roots in British legal treatises written in the 17th century. The important question, he said, is whether a 400-year-old law is supported by 21st-century medical science and principles of human rights.” Continue reading


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