Did Obama's election kill the antiwar movement?

Apr 06, 2011

Since 2003, the antiwar movement in the United States has had much to protest with Americans fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya, but the movement—which has dropped off sharply the past two years—may be more anti-Republican than antiwar, says a University of Michigan researcher.

A new study by U-M's Michael Heaney and colleague Fabio Rojas of Indiana University shows that the antiwar movement in the demobilized as Democrats, who had been motivated to participate by anti-Republican sentiments, withdrew from antiwar protests when the Democratic Party achieved electoral success, first with Congress in 2006 and then with the presidency in 2008.

"As president, Obama has maintained the occupation of Iraq and escalated the war in ," said Heaney, U-M assistant professor of organizational studies and political science. "The antiwar movement should have been furious at Obama's 'betrayal' and reinvigorated its protest activity.

"Instead, attendance at antiwar rallies declined precipitously and financial resources available to the movement have dissipated. The election of Obama appeared to be a demobilizing force on the antiwar movement, even in the face of his pro-war decisions."

Heaney and Rojas analyzed the demobilization of the antiwar movement by using surveys of 5,400 demonstrators at 27 protests mostly in Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago and San Francisco from January 2007 to December 2009. The surveys asked questions on basic demographics, partisan affiliations, organizational affiliations, reasons for attending the events, histories of political participation, and attitudes toward the movement, war and the political system.

In addition, the researchers observed smaller, more informal events at which antiwar activists gathered, including Capitol Hill lobby days, candlelight vigils, fundraisers, small protests, planning meetings, training sessions, parties, the National Assembly of United for Peace and Justice and the U.S. Social Forum. They also interviewed 40 antiwar leaders about their personal backgrounds, the inner workings of the antiwar movement, political leaders and the Democratic Party.

Their study found that the withdrawal of Democratic activists changed the character of the antiwar movement by undermining broad coalitions in the movement and encouraging the formation of smaller, more radical coalitions.

After Obama's election as president, Democratic participation in antiwar activities plunged, falling from 37 percent in January 2009 to a low of 19 percent in November 2009, Heaney and Rojas say. In contrast, members of third parties became proportionately more prevalent in the movement, rising from 16 percent in January 2009 to a high of 34 percent in November 2009.

"Since Democrats are more numerous in the population at large than are members of third parties, the withdrawal of Democrats from the movement in 2009 appears to be a significant explanation for the falling size of antiwar protests," Heaney said. "Thus, we have identified the kernel of the linkage between Democratic partisanship and the demobilization of the antiwar movement."

Using statistical analysis, the researchers found that holding anti-Republican attitudes had a significant, positive effect on the likelihood that Democrats attended antiwar rallies. The results also show that Democrats increasingly abandoned the movement over time, perhaps to channel their activism into other causes such as health care reform or simply to decrease their overall level of political involvement.

For members of third parties, holding radical political attitudes had a significant, positive effect on the likelihood that they would attend antiwar rallies. They also had a more negative view of Obama's handling of Iraq, compared to Democrats, nonparty members and even Republicans.

"The withdrawal of Democrats from the movement led to the collapse of its largest and broadest coalition, which resulted in the fragmentation of the movement into smaller coalitions and left it relying more on individual organizations acting independently," Heaney said. "The adjusted balance of power among activists in the movement promoted the expression of more radical and anti-Obama attitudes by leading organizations.

"Overall, our results convincingly demonstrate a strong relationship between partisanship and the dynamics of the antiwar movement. While Obama's election was heralded as a victory for the antiwar movement, Obama's election, in fact, thwarted the ability of the movement to achieve critical mass."

Explore further: A two generation lens: Current state policies fail to support families with young children

More information: Study: Partisan dynamics of contention (PDF) www-personal.umich.edu/~mheane… cs_of_Contention.pdf

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User comments : 15

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DozerIAm
5 / 5 (4) Apr 06, 2011
The article doesn't come out and say it but effectively it strongly suggests that in regards to the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War as initiated by Bush 43, opposition to the war was far more political than idealogical.
yempski
1 / 5 (1) Apr 07, 2011
I opposed the Iraq war because of the deceit. Is this political ?
Doug_Huffman
3.3 / 5 (6) Apr 07, 2011
No, just ineffective, and that is political. You used the past tense, "opposed", while the deceit continues under Obowma. That is political.

Politics and ideology cannot be separated, like gluons, more extreme pairs will be created from the divisive tension.
DozerIAm
4 / 5 (4) Apr 07, 2011
yempski, regarding the "deceit" argument (aka "Bush lied us into war"), it should be remembered that the US voted in favor of the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998 (signed by Bill Clinton) and the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (signed by Bush 43 and with "yes" votes from Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, Patrick Kennedy among other Democrats), and the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441 in 2002 - all based on internationally corroborated evidence from spy agencies in multiple governments and from statements made by Saddam Hussein himself. The war was an international effort with America, Poland, the UK and Australia involved in the initial 3 week invasion phase and 36 other countries involved in subsequent fighting.
DozerIAm
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 07, 2011
Now, it is true that the spy data wasnt fully corroborated and that Saddam lied about both his capabilities and his intentions, however it is also true that Hussein had used WMDs against both the Iranians and the Kurds in northern Iraq and we had spent the previous decade enforcing a no fly zone over Iraq which in 1998 Saddam Hussein announced he would no longer abide (as well as offering cash bounties for any allied aircraft shot down) . Bush 43 *AND* the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee received the same full intelligence briefings which was based on the best information available at the time; the full senate received the CIAs NIE which redacted certain top secret details but still managed 92 pages worth of intel. Its been reported that most senators only read the executive summary rather than the full document and based their vote on that (http://thehill.co...report), however the NIE is a CIA document not a White House document.
DozerIAm
5 / 5 (2) Apr 07, 2011
All of this making the point that the 2002 Iraq invasion came to be as a result of previous administrations actions, bad intelligence, Husseins statements and actions, the Sept 11th attacks, and with bipartisan support nationally and internationally. Look, Im all for people being anti-war. War is awful. But based in the information available at the time, it was widely recognized by both Democrats and Republicans to be the right decision at the time. Its the sweeping under the carpet of this fact that makes the anti-war protests ending with Obama seem all the more political.
kaasinees
2 / 5 (4) Apr 07, 2011
Why cant we just leave other countries alone and concentrate on advancing our own countries?
DozerIAm
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 07, 2011
Because sometimes what's going on in other countries affects our strategic interests. At least, thats the only reason we should be considering.
ryggesogn2
1.8 / 5 (5) Apr 07, 2011
Why cant we just leave other countries alone and concentrate on advancing our own countries?

Do you think the Dutch would have appreciated an early intervention by Britain and the USA to stop Germany and Japan in 1938?
There were a lot of Dutch POWs in Indonesia.
kaasinees
1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 07, 2011
Why cant we just leave other countries alone and concentrate on advancing our own countries?

Do you think the Dutch would have appreciated an early intervention by Britain and the USA to stop Germany and Japan in 1938?
There were a lot of Dutch POWs in Indonesia.

Dont talk nonsense about things you dont know anything about.
ryggesogn2
3 / 5 (4) Apr 07, 2011
Why cant we just leave other countries alone and concentrate on advancing our own countries?

Do you think the Dutch would have appreciated an early intervention by Britain and the USA to stop Germany and Japan in 1938?
There were a lot of Dutch POWs in Indonesia.

Dont talk nonsense about things you dont know anything about.

Like what?
I think there would have been millions of people very happy to be alive today had the world helped to stop Hitler, Mussolini and Japan in the 1930s.
DozerIAm
4 / 5 (2) Apr 07, 2011
Dont talk nonsense about things you dont know anything about.

You should probably use the word "please" at the start of that sentence. You should probably make an attempt to not be insulting of the content of a post or of another poster (this may actually be a formal posting guideline here). You should also probably be specific when criticizing a post. What did you have issue with, specifically? Was it wrong, inaccurate, or exaggerated? If so, in what way?

Other thank that, though, good post.
lairdwilcox
3.8 / 5 (4) Apr 08, 2011
I wonder if anti-war sentiment is also muted because it might be registered as criticism of a Black president. Obama's racial heritage has had the effect of silencing a great deal of opposition that we might have seen had the successor to Bush been white. Pointed criticism of Obama seems vaguely racist and some people won't risk that label or the feelings that accompany it regardless of the merits of an issue.
Doug_Huffman
3 / 5 (6) Apr 08, 2011
Pointed criticism of the imposter will only get the post deleted and a "pointless verbiage" whine from the oh, so very moderate immoderator. Black is the shield and armor, humor and outlook of the American prog.

Normative and prescriptive statements, that are characterized by would, should or could, have no intrinsic truth value, are not falsifiable, and, so, are not 'scientific' (after Popper).
FrankHerbert
0.7 / 5 (47) Apr 10, 2011
Lil douggie needs to call roto rooter. He's full!