The recent Black Lives Matter protests peaked on June 6, when half a million people turned out in nearly 550 places across the United States. That was a single day in more than a month of protests that still continue to today.
Four recent polls — including one released this week by Civis Analytics, a data science firm that works with businesses and Democratic campaigns — suggest that about 15 million to 26 million people in the United States have participated in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd and others in recent weeks.
These figures would make the recent protests the largest movement in the country’s history, according to interviews with scholars and crowd-counting experts.
Number of people in U.S. who said they protested, according to polls
POLL PCT. WHO PROTESTED IMPLIED POPULATION POLLING PERIOD
- Kaiser Family Foundation (n = 1296) 10% 26 million June 8-14
- Civis Analytics (4446) 9% 23 million June 12-22
- N.O.R.C. (1310) 7% 18 million June 11-15
- Pew (9654) 6% 15 million June 4-10
The demonstrations after the killing of George Floyd have seen millions of Americans take to the streets on bicycles, horses, surfboards and boats, skateboards, in cars or on foot. It is the largest sustained mobilization in the United States in our lifetimes.
Data from the Crowd Counting Consortium gives a sense of the scale of these protests. So far, we’ve counted 5,000 individual anti-racism/anti-police-brutality protests nationwide since the end of May, involving millions of participants. In fact, data from Pennsylvania (which we have studied most intensively) suggest that our national count still underestimates the number of protests in small cities and towns. The real national total may be as high as 8,000.
Nearly half of the 10 percent of American adults who report attending a protest in support of Black Lives Matter last month identify as independents. That’s important because, in general, independents are less likely to be politically engaged or optimistic about politics or to vote. Yet the message that voting is necessary — if not sufficient — has rung out at protests. From Kansas City to Sacramento, protesters registered voters.
Everything we know about political engagement suggests that protest involvement builds new personal networks that make people more knowledgeable and engaged with politics — and more likely to vote.