Date of Award

Spring 5-24-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

MS Experimental Psychology




Susan Nolan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Susan Teague, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Fanli Jia, Ph.D.


protest, public perception, violence, political affiliation


Research regarding public perceptions of the legitimacy and reasonableness of protest groups, as well as support for these groups and identification with their causes have been studied extensively. However, much is still to be investigated on perceptions of protest groups by way of public attitudes toward protest violence, likelihood of engagement in activism, and political alignment with conservative or liberal ideologies. This study aimed to assess perceptions and attitudes toward conservative and liberal protest groups’ use of violent and nonviolent behavior. Participants read a description of one of four protest groups, with each group varying by political affiliation (conservative or liberal) and use of violence (violent or nonviolent). Participants then completed measures of public solidarity with the protest group as well as favorability ratings and attitudes toward the group. Participants also completed measures assessing their beliefs about violence, their capacity for future activist engagement, and their political alignment with conservative and liberal values. Results indicated that violent protesting behavior elicited a higher rating for participant intentions for future activism, on average, as compared to nonviolent protesting behaviors. Additionally, those reading about liberal protest groups expressed higher levels of solidarity and more favorable attitudes toward protest groups, on average, than did those reading about conservative protest groups. Further research in the evaluation of support for and attitudes toward protest groups is critical to expanding knowledge on protest group and protest observer dynamics. In addition, exploration of personal views on violence, intentions to protest, and political identity will continue building understanding around public perceptions related to support for protest groups and their causes.