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Can Violent Protest Change Local Policy Support? Evidence from the Aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles Riot

  • RYAN D. ENOS (a1), AARON R. KAUFMAN (a2) and MELISSA L. SANDS (a3)


Violent protests are dramatic political events, yet we know little about the effect of these events on political behavior. While scholars typically treat violent protests as deliberate acts undertaken in pursuit of specific goals, due to a lack of appropriate data and difficulty in causal identification, there is scant evidence of whether riots can actually increase support for these goals. Using geocoded data, we analyze measures of policy support before and after the 1992 Los Angeles riot—one of the most high-profile events of political violence in recent American history—that occurred just prior to an election. Contrary to some expectations from the academic literature and the popular press, we find that the riot caused a marked liberal shift in policy support at the polls. Investigating the sources of this shift, we find that it was likely the result of increased mobilization of both African American and white voters. Remarkably, this mobilization endures over a decade later.


Corresponding author

*Ryan D. Enos, Professor, Department of Government, Harvard University,
Aaron R. Kaufman, Assistant Professor, Division of Social Science, New York University, Abu Dhabi,
Melissa L. Sands, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California, Merced,


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We thank Allison Anoll, Pablo Barberá, Lawrence Bobo, Daniel Carpenter, Guy-Uriel E. Charles and the Duke Behavioral Economics and the Law Seminar, Anthony Fowler, Bernard Fraga, Andrew Hall, Kasper Hansen, Daniel de Kadt, Kabir Khanna, Gary King, Gabe Lenz, Horacio Larreguy and the Harvard Junior Faculty working group, Thomas Leeper, Jeff Lewis, Daniel Moskowitz, Jon Rogowski, David Sears, Doug Smith, Robert Ward, the Harvard Research Design Workshop, the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder County Clerk’s Office, the California Statewide Database, a series of talented research assistants for their invaluable contributions to this project, and to the editors and reviewers at the American Political Science Review for strengthening the manuscript. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:



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Can Violent Protest Change Local Policy Support? Evidence from the Aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles Riot

  • RYAN D. ENOS (a1), AARON R. KAUFMAN (a2) and MELISSA L. SANDS (a3)


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