Supporting Protest or Repression During a Pandemic: The Suspension of Ideological Preferences in Emergency Situations

Image credit: Stephan Sprinz via Wikimedia Commons

Under Review


This study investigates public support for protest and government repression of protestors during a public health emergency. Previous research highlights the impact of protest issues and tactics on public perception, yet the unique context of a health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic remains underexplored. We report results from two vignette survey experiments fielded to representative samples of German citizens in August 2022 and January 2023. The experiments vary protest issue (climate change v. government lockdowns), tactics (nonviolent v. violent), and social distancing practices. Strikingly, our results show that, during a public health emergency, protester goals have no effect on public support for protest or repression. However, respondents do continue to support nonviolent protest at higher rates than violent protest and oppose repression of nonviolent protesters. These results suggest that public health emergencies may reduce the salience of individual political preferences, but do not affect more basic aversions to political violence.

Jonathan Pinckney
Jonathan Pinckney
Assistant Professor

My research interests include civil resistance, democratization, and peacebuilding.