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Not All Black Lives Matter: Officer-Involved Deaths and the Role of Victim Characteristics in Shaping Political Interest and Voter Turnout

December 2021

From Perspectives on Politics

This article presents evidence that exposure to officer-involved deaths of low-threat Black victims increases political interest and voter turnout among Black respondents under age 40 to the 2016 Collaborative Multiracial Post-Election Survey. Victim race, threat level, and visibility affect the likelihood that an officer-involved death will mobilize political interest. Political interest and voter turnout are higher among the treatment group, which was exposed to high-visibility/low-threat Black victims only before participating in the CMPS, than in the control group, which was exposed to such victims only after taking the survey. Exposing young Black respondents to all victims without accounting for threat, visibility, or race does not affect political interest or voter turnout, suggesting the importance of these factors for mobilization. The findings clarify the role that Black Lives Matter activists, journalists, and watchdog groups can play in countering the police actions that shape the visibility and framing of Black victims of police violence.