Did the Women's March Work? Revisiting the Political Efficacy of Protest
The Women’s March on Washington and its over 600 sister marches were likely the single largest day of protest in American history, and were followed by a wave of political organizing that re-invigorated progressive politics after the 2016 election of President Donald Trump. Yet to what degree can we attribute the emergence of this Anti-Trump “Resistance” to the Women’s Marches themselves? Do public protests such as the Women’s March truly change political outcomes or do they simply reflect underlying public opinion? There is a growing literature arguing that protest has important effects independent of its endogenous relationship to public opinion. In this paper, I test this argument on the scale of the Women’s March. I instrument Women’s March participation using rainfall data from the day of the march and measure the effects of instrumented march size on two dependent variables: the creation of “Indivisible” groups, and the shift towards Democratic congressional candidates in the 2018 elections. I find that the instrumented size of Women’s March protests significantly increased both dependent variables. These findings provide strong evidence that the Women’s Marches were a significant transformative event in American politics, with real political consequences, and speak to the power of peaceful protest as a social movement tactic.