Do Black Lives Really Matter? Public Opinion and Candidate Response
Following the murder of George Floyd, public opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement took a positive turn, with 67% of the nation expressing their support for the movement. This is a sharp increase from May 24, 2020, the day prior to Floyd's murder, when only 45% of the nation supported the movement. This thesis examines whether a change in public opinion impacts the degree to which a candidate embraces the Black Lives Matter movement and whether the electorate rewards the candidate's support in the movement by voting for them. Using Twitter data, this thesis analyzes the tweets of candidates from five U.S. Congressional districts during the 2018 Democratic primaries and the 2020 Democratic primaries to determine how closely candidates align themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement compared to how favorably the public views the movement. This thesis found that all candidates created stronger ties to the movement when support for the movement was at a record high and embraced the movement less when support for the movement was low. This thesis also found that when support for the Black Lives Matter movement was at its highest, voters voted for candidates who appeared to have the strongest ties to the movement.