A growing literature finds that nonviolence is more successful than violence in effecting political change. We suggest that a focus on this association is incomplete, because it obscures the crucial influence of ethnic identity on campaign outcomes. We argue that because of prevalent negative stereotypes associating minority ethnic groups with violence, such groups are perceived as more violent even when resisting nonviolently, increasing support for their repression and ultimately hampering campaign success. We show that, cross-nationally, the effect of nonviolence on outcomes is significantly moderated by ethnicity, with nonviolence increasing success only for dominant groups. We then test our argument using two experiments in the United States and Israel. Study 1 finds that nonviolent resistance by ethnic minorities is perceived as more violent and requiring more policing than identical resistance by majorities. Study 2 replicates and extends the results, leveraging the wave of racial justice protests across the US in June 2020 to find that white participants are perceived as less violent than Black participants when protesting for the same goals. These findings highlight the importance of ethnic identity in shaping campaign perceptions and outcomes, underscoring the obstacles that widespread biases pose to nonviolent mobilization.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Devorah Manekin thanks the Israel Science Foundation (Grant 1919/17) for its support of this research. 1
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Political Science Association.