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A new poll found a decline in support among Americans for the Black Lives Matter movement, a year and a half after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other high-profile deaths of Black people in encounters with police sparked a global outcry.
According to a national poll conducted by Civiqs, a nonpartisan online survey firm affiliated with the progressive media group Daily Kos, 44 percent of respondents, overall, said they support the Black Lives Matter movement. Another 43 said they oppose it, while 11 percent said they neither support nor oppose it. The survey has tracked respondents’ viewpoints at multiple moments from April 2017 to this month. Civiqs did not provide a margin of error.
According to the poll, support for the Black Lives Matter movement peaked in June 2020 at 52 percent, a month after Floyd was killed. At the height of the movement, protesters marched across the country to express their outrage at Floyd’s death, which was seen by millions in disturbing video showing Floyd losing consciousness as a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost 10 minutes.
Since then, public support to Black Lives Matter has continue to decline, including after the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020 and the conviction in April of former police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of Floyd.
While 82 percent of Black respondents said they support the Black Lives Matter movement, 53 percent of white respondents said they opposed the movement, reflecting a pattern of public opinion when it comes to racial justice movements, said Vida Robertson, the director of the Center for Critical Race Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown.
Robertson said the findings reveal the historical phenomenon of the liberation struggles of Black Americans and civil rights movements, from the Harlem Renaissance to the Black Power movement.
“These polls are quite representative of America’s approach,” Robertson said. “There’s no historical evidence whatsoever that America has ever been interested in Black liberation and building an equitable society. We are simply coming to grips with our romantic ideals that are running up against our political realities. And the fact stands that America has constantly and will constantly struggle with the liberation of Black bodies, because we are endemically a racist society.”
Black Lives Matter, founded in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of a Black teenager, Trayvon Martin, began as a hashtag and grew into a global organization. In a previous interview, Alicia Garza, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, said her organization has been adapting its focus toward more structural reforms.
Robertson said he believes far more people became aware of issues affecting the Black community, such as police brutality, during the Covid-19 pandemic, which allowed the country to focus on problems that would otherwise have been ignored. However, as the pandemic shifts, so does support for movements like Black Lives Matter.
“Our country is simply going back to default,” Robertson said. “Our job is to reconstruct the game, so that we can actually move beyond winning them over to becoming the American Dream that we longed for.”
CORRECTION (Nov. 22, 2:29 p.m.): A previous version of this article mischaracterized the respondents to the survey who said they support the Black Lives Matter movement. Eighty-two percent of the respondents who are Black support the movement, not 82 percent of overall respondents.