Understanding the bases of support for the “Black Lives Matter” movement

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POG 230 Final Assignment – Fall 2019

Understanding the bases of support for the “Black Lives Matter” movement


One of the defining issues in American politics is, and always has been, race. In recent years, one of the manifestations of this societal cleavage has been the development of the “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) movement. The movement originated following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who had shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, in Florida in 2012. In the period that followed, BLM grew into a more general movement opposed to what was widely perceived as systematic pattern of unnecessary violence and discrimination towards blacks (usually young men) at the hands of police. The movement led to sizable public demonstrations and social media campaigns, and received widespread attention from media outlets. There was some noteworthy backlash to the BLM movement, including the emergence of the ‘blue lives matter’ movement, which had pro-police officer sentiment. Importantly for our purposes, debates about BLM become relevant to politics and presidential elections.

You are to use data from the 2016 National Election Study dataset to conduct a series of statistical analyses and answer a series of questions about attitudes towards the BLM movement. The survey includes a variety of questions about sociodemographic indicators, attitudes, and behaviours. Your primary variable of interest is an interval level measure of attitudes towards BLM.  The measure is based upon a standard ‘feeling thermometer’ question, which asks respondents to rate BLM on a scale from 0 (strong dislike) to 100 (strong like). The variable name is ft_BLM.

Your report should consist of the following sections. 

1)      Provide a brief introduction, including an overview of your study’s topic and findings. 

2)      You understand the importance of theory driving any statistical analysis. Perform a review of the existing literature on attitudes towards BLM.  Which sociodemographic or attitudinal factors are thought to be associated with attitudes towards this movement? This review should be between 2 and 3 pages, and should be focused upon identifying a series of specific factors you expect to affect attitudes towards BLM.  If you find it difficult to find literature on BLM in particular, then feel free to broaden your search to consider similar, relevant search terms. If you take this approach, be sure to justify this and show how your broader search is relevant to BLM.

3)      Conduct a univariate analysis to describe the BLM feeling thermometer variable.  What are the appropriate measures to report here?  Also present a bar chart or histogram to convey the information captured by this variable. Hint:  Determine which values are the most important and present this information in a table. 

4)      Recall that National Election Study data based upon survey responses from a sample of the American voting population.  As a good political scientist, you know that this means that your conclusions must be drawn with some degree of modesty.  For example, you know that the estimated rating of the BLM movement from #3 (above) should, in fact, report a range when attempting to draw conclusions about the population as a whole.  In addition to the mean value or the BLM feeling thermometer score, also provide the range of values within which you are 95% confident that the actual population estimate lies.  Do the same for the feeling thermometer scores for two other targets: the police (ft_Police) and Donald Trump (ft_Trump_pre).  Hint:  Provide your results in a table.

5)      You expect race and gender will have a relationship with attitudes towards the BLM movement. Conduct two separate analysis to determine if these two factors are, in fact, related to attitudes towards BLM. The variable Female indicates gender, while Race3 categorizes respondents as either black, white, or Hispanic (other respondents are not included in this variable).  Conduct the appropriate analysis to determine if either variable (gender or race) is related to support for BLM. If you observe differences between your groups of respondents, are these differences statistically significant?  Hint: you will need to draw upon material from multiple lectures in order to answer this question fully.

6)      You understand the importance of controlling for confounding variables when making causal claims.  In particular, you are interested in whether the effect of gender upon attitudes towards BLM is conditional upon race. Using the Race3 and Female variables, conduct the appropriate analysis to determine if the effect of gender depends upon respondent race.  Present these results in table and graphical format, being sure to report all necessary statistics.  Hint:  These results should build upon those from #5. Think carefully about which variable is your control.

7)      You wish to also determine how attitudes towards Donald Trump are related to attitudes towards BLM. Create a scatterplot to show the relationship between ft_Trump_pre and the BLM thermometer variable.  Present and interpret the regression equation.  What is the Pearson correlation value?  Hint: Be sure  to report all appropriate values here, in addition to the regression equation.

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