antiwar research on abc news

Lee Dye of ABC news ran an article on our research showing how Democrats have abandoned the antiwar movement. A few choice clips:

“Democratic departures left the antiwar movement fragmented and empowered radical elements within the movement,” the study says.

That’s a vastly different picture than the one just six years earlier when protesters around the world took part in “The World Says No to War.” Approximately 10 million people were mobilized in hundreds of cities worldwide for that event, described as “the largest internationally coordinated protest in history.”


“The threat to peace from the Obama administration, as perceived by the grassroots constituency of the antiwar movement, must have been very small,” the study concludes. The reduced numbers proved “devastating to the financial base,” leaving antiwar leaders with little choice but to move from the streets to the Internet.

“What’s left in the antiwar movement today is the hardcore,” Heaney said in the interview, “the people who are more or less professional activists. It’s just a small group of people that’s left.”

But the wars continue in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now, to a much lesser extent, Libya. So where have all the flowers gone?

As a former antiwar protester himself, Heaney was willing to go well beyond the scientifically-based research that resulted in the study and offer a few personal opinions. Does he feel “betrayed,” to use his study’s own word, by Obama.

“I feel disappointed he has continued some of the Bush policies,” Heaney said, but not betrayed. After thinking about a question for what seemed like a full minute, he said he never really expected Obama to bring a quick end to the wars, which he described as “very intractable.”

Check it out.

Written by fabiorojas

April 14, 2011 at 12:20 am

7 Responses

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  1. Nice work!



    April 14, 2011 at 3:29 am

  2. Congrats on the shout out Fabio.

    I have a question though. From personal experience (I participated in the big anti-war march in Boston that happened just before the war began), I can say that my own feeling was that protesting was most meaningful before we started bombing Iraq. Once we started the war, it seemed to me both a fait acomplis and also, vaguely, dishonorable; once the country is at war, i personally felt like I needed to back off making loud vocal attacks.

    Thats just me, but I doubt I was completely alone in this.

    So, while I get that the data show that there were big changes in the partisan composition of the protests, I wonder also about total numbers of participants. I assume they spike just before the war started and declined steadily until the election campaign started to heat up… true?



    April 14, 2011 at 4:27 am

  3. Sean —

    There were some very large protests before the war started, but there were also equally large or larger protests in August 2004 (New York) and September 2005 (Washington, DC).

    In my opinion, it is not patriotic to stop telling your country that it is doing something wrong (when it is) just because it is at war. In fact, this may be exactly the time when it is most important to speak out.

    Protests after a war begins may be important in shaping public opinion and putting pressure on Congress, which has the power to limit the duration and scope of the conflict. For an excellent recent book on the topic, see Douglas L. Kriner, After the Rubicon: Congress, Presidents, and the Politics of Waging War (Chicago, 2010).



    Michael T. Heaney

    April 14, 2011 at 12:17 pm

  4. Congrats on the coverage.

    I have a vaguely formed theory that the massing of the anti-war movement, especially around Obama’s campaign, made it less effective, more ideolologically manageable. I’m against all the wars at issue (Afghanistan, Iraq, Lybia) and was also against the bombing of Serbia. But I’ve never protested or signed a petition. I just keep quietly voting for the parties that promise not to approve of such things.

    Like I say, this isn’t a fully formed thought. But it seems to me that the loud, but ultimately meaningless opposition that mass movements “mobilize” finally just flows with the forces of war. They add mass. They don’t change direction. The slogans are understood in advance and assigned to the “anti-war” side of the media picture. Then equally forceful slogans are aligned on the other side, and people feel like they “tried to do something” but lost. It seems fair.

    If the hawks did not have to deal with masses, but had to justify themselves in front of smaller and therefore more articulate audiences, the wars they propose would make much less sense. Or, rather, the sense they would be forced to make would not justify them.

    Peace movements are, in this sense, part of the war effort.



    April 14, 2011 at 1:36 pm

  5. @Sean:

    For me, there is a real puzzle. The height of the antiwar movement happened when most voters supported the war. The bottom has occurred when most people agree with the movement.

    Various explanations treat opinion as not relevant. The partisan theory explanation is that it’s really about who controls the presidency. The rational choice theory is that people protest early because that’s the time when you have the best shot at making a difference. The Collins/ritual explanation is that you have a lot of unexpended energy early on and people just get tired.

    At least we can test the partisanship theory and it is consistent with the data. The others are open to argument and it’s not clear how they make clear predictions.



    April 14, 2011 at 5:37 pm

  6. “There were some very large protests before the war started, but there were also equally large or larger protests in August 2004 (New York) and September 2005 (Washington, DC).”

    Really? Specifically, which protests were as big as the February 15, 2003 anti-war protests in NYC, SF, LA, Seattle, etc.?


    Thorstein Veblen

    April 15, 2011 at 4:44 pm

  7. @Thorstein Veblen:

    (1) the protest outside the Republican National Convention in New York City on August 29, 2004 drew an estimated crowd of more than 500,000 people;

    (2) the protest in Washington, DC, on September 24, 2005 drew an estimated crowd of more than 300,000 people.

    You should have been there!



    Michael T. Heaney

    April 17, 2011 at 5:27 am

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