Last modified: Monday, July 9, 2007
Antiwar divisions could hurt Democrats in 2008
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 9, 2007
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Cooperation between the Democratic Party and antiwar activists helped Democrats in the 2006 congressional elections, say researchers at Indiana University and the University of Florida, but the upcoming presidential election could see this support wane because of divisions among the antiwar activists and the instability of the "Party in the Street."
"Many Democratic candidates take the support of antiwar activists for granted," said Fabio Rojas, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at IU Bloomington. "Growing disillusion with the Democrats might lead antiwar voters to stay home on election day, tipping the scales in favor of Republicans in close races."
He and Michael T. Heaney, a UF political scientist, note that major antiwar groups plan to conduct large protests at the Democratic National Convention in Denver next year, much like they did at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.
"The Democrats could find that their party is divided in 2008 much as it was in 1968, with many of its natural supporters on the 'left ' camped outside the convention hall," Heaney said. "This situation complicates the Democrats' electoral prospects, to say the least."
Neither political party is insulated from the pressures of the antiwar movement and the public's unhappiness with the war, Rojas said. In the last few weeks, for example, two prominent Congressman, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., have openly criticized the administration's handling of the war, creating more opportunities for antiwar activists.
Rojas and Heaney's findings are published in the July issue of American Politics Research. The article, "Partisans, nonpartisans and the antiwar movement in the United States," can be found at http://apr.sagepub.com/.
Roughly 40 percent of grassroots activists support the Democrats. Another 20 percent support a third party, such as the Green Party, while 39 percent are independents, and 2 percent support the Republicans.
The Democrats in the movement are more likely to work with organizations like MoveOn.org, the Progressive Democrats of America and Code Pink: Women for Peace, Rojas said. Non-Democratic activists are more likely to work with organizations like United for Peace and Justice, and International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism).
Rojas and Heaney wrote that when antiwar activists work closely with the Democratic Party and organizations like MoveOn.org, a new political space is created called The Party in the Street, which is an informal network of activists and organizations. Activists who are part of the Party in the Street are more likely to engage in lobbying and other political activities that help the Democrats.
In return, Democratic elected officials respond by helping sympathetic activists in the antiwar movement.
Rojas said the balance struck in the Party in the Street is unstable and could hurt the Democrats as much or more than it helps them. Dissatisfaction with Democrats has increased among antiwar activists in recent months, for example, as a result of Democratic support for continued war funding.
Data for the study is drawn from an ongoing three-year project involving surveys of more than 4,000 people at antiwar demonstrations held across the United States. This study involves data from the analysis of around 2,200 of the surveys and was supported in part by the IUB Department of Sociology, the University of Florida, and the Institution for Social and Policy studies at Yale University.
Rojas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 812-369-5242.
"Partisans, Nonpartisans, and the Antiwar Movement in the United States," American Politics Research, July 2007.