Monday, August 8, 2016

Student researchers find contrasts between RNC and DNC protests and protesters

Posted July 29, 2016
Far more people participated in protests during last week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia than they did at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland earlier this month, but that wasn’t the only difference Penn State University and University of Pennsylvania student researchers found in the conventions.
In Philadelphia, far more protesters were focused on changing the party’s nominee than they were in Cleveland, according to preliminary research the students conducted during the DNC last week. Influence of money and political corruption were also the top motivations for protesters, the researchers found. 
Philadelphia DNC protests were more varied and larger than those held during the Republican National Convention, the researchers found.
The Penn State-led group estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people turned out across the city for events on Monday, the opening day of the convention. That was 10 to 20 times higher than the number of protesters outside the RNC on its first day, according to Penn State political professor Lee Ann Banaszak, who's leading the student research project examining modern political demonstrations.
The student research team surveyed participants at a number of events held between City Hall and nearby Dilworth Park and areas around the Wells Fargo Center, about three miles away, including Occupy the DNC, the Bernie Sanders March, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign March and the Equality Coalition March on the DNC.
On the DNC's first day, researchers spoke to 223 people, Banaszak said.
Despite what Banaszak called the national media's emphasis on the “Dump Trump” movement at the RNC, far more people participating in demonstrations outside the DNC were protesting Clinton as the nominee on the first day the surveys were conducted.
“I saw a lot of people talking about the Green Party and other options (more than during the Republican convention)," Banaszak said, adding, “It’s not that people aren’t as strong advocates for certain positions, but they see their position as changing the party nominee.”
In contrast, the student researchers found the GOP nominee wasn't the main reason people demonstrated in Cleveland.  
Nearly one-quarter of those surveyed said racial inequity and racism were the reason they were protesting at the RNC, compared to 16 percent of protesters who were there to support or oppose Trump. Fewer than 10 percent of the protesters polled said their main concern was corruption or the influence of money on politics. Students spoke with 111 participants at three events on the opening day of the RNC. They attended all rallies that had city permits, plus marches and events in the official protest areas outside the convention.
Fewer than 5 percent of Cleveland protesters said their goal was to change the GOP nominee or position on an issue, while most told researchers they were there to express unity on an issue or change public opinion, the researchers found.
The group’s preliminary research at the RNC also found the number of protesters there was far lower than expected, with numbers in the hundreds rather than the anticipated thousands. Police made 23 arrests during the first three days of that convention.
During the DNC, at least 60 events were scheduled and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney's office estimated they could attract as many as 50,000 participants daily. However, final estimates put the number of protesters at about 10,000 daily, with the numbers dropping to a few hundred on the last day of the convention.
Philadelphia police issued more than 100 civil citations that carry a $50 fine for nuisance violations, such as obstructing a road or pathway and disorderly conduct. Eleven out-of-state protesters — all Sanders supporters — are facing misdemeanor charges in federal court after they were arrested for allegedly climbing fences to enter a secured perimeter around the Wells Fargo Center, where the DNC was held.
The student researchers plan to write reports on their findings, which will include the results of follow up email surveys of participants interviewed, Banaszak said.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email: jciavaglia@calkins.com; Twitter: @JoCiavaglia

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