Americans have taken to the streets in more than twenty thousand protests since the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Some movements, like the Women's March, started at the national level; others, like March For Our Lives, began locally before spreading across the country.
Count Love catalogues those events by crawling the web for news stories about protest. The data only includes events that were covered in the media. However, Count Love offers a rich look into protest in the public eye.
Watch protest spread, week by week
Protest doesn’t belong to coastal cities, college towns, or liberal causes. Rather, protest is a tool that can be used to create pressure and push for change. It’s just as useful for conservative causes as liberal ones: the conservative Tea Party protests pushed legislators to the right during Barack Obama's presidency. And protest is a powerful response to local issues, not just sweeping national causes.
Read on to explore protest in America since January 2017, or skip ahead to see how your state compares to the rest of the country.
Places Connected By Protest
These constellations show places with unusually high levels of protest about a particular topic. Places that protest about the same topics at the same time are connected to form constellations. The small gray dots show every place where protests about this topic took place.
0 protests about topic
Places in the constellations if they protest about the same topic at the same time. For instance, in the gun constellation, many places are connected directly with Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach because they protested about guns in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting. The width of the connections indicate how often both places protested together.
Environmental protests follow local threats
Protest often follows local events. For instance, South Florida, home of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, is a hub of gun-related protest. Environmental protests also follow local events and issues. Pipeline projects inspired protest across seven states in the last three years. Salt Lake City, Utah took to the streets against shrinkage of Bear Ears National Monument, while North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida protested about offshore drilling and the toxic algae bloom known as red tide.
Protest Over Time
Waves of protest swell in response to current events, sometimes appearing overnight and fading quickly.
Crisis and scandal drive Americans to the street
When Americans protested about immigration
National attention is no guarantee of protest on a national scale. Organizing is key to making protest happen. Consider protests about guns. Minimal protest followed shootings in Las Vegas, Texas First Baptist Church, and Rancho Tehama. But after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February 2018, students from Parkland organized a series of nationwide school walkouts as well as March For Our Lives, one of the largest street protests in American history.
Gun-related protests spike after Parkland, then fade
Where We Protest
Protests look different at the state level than at the national level. Issues like education inspire protest in some states but not others.
West Virginia, which had the highest rate of education-related protests per person in the entire country. Teachers defied state law to hold an 8-day strike in March 2018, pushing for better pay and reduced healthcare costs. The West Virginia strikes started a were the first in a nationwide series of teacher strikes and education-related protests.
West Virginia leads wave of strikes and educational protests
Teacher strikes spread through other states in 2018 and 2019, including Oklahoma and Arizona. This year, teachers in West Virginia only had to strike for a few hours before the West Virginia House of Delegates indefinitely postponed a vote on a bill introducing charter schools and educational vouchers.
What inspires protest in your state?
Protests in Florida focus more on guns and the Executive Branch than other states, and focus less on .
100 of protests in FL were about topic
To learn more about protest in your area, check out Count Love's tool for protest activity by congressional district.
For more information on making the graphics, see the making-of blog post on Data and Dragons.
Protest data is from Count Love, a project by Nathan Perkins and Tommy Leung. Population data is from the U.S. Census (2017 American Community Survey population estimates).
Weeks in this project begin on Monday and end on Sunday so that protests on the same weekend are grouped together.
Latitude and longitude for each protest were provided by Nathan Perkins and Tommy Leung. “Places” in this graphic are metropolitan statistical areas, micropolitan statistical areas, and counties. Metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas contain at least one urban area surrounded by areas with close social and economic ties to that urban area (U.S. Census: https://www.census.gov/topics/housing/housing-patterns/about/core-based-statistical-areas.html). Protests that occurred outside metropolitan/micropolitan areas were grouped by county.
Topics are based on CountLove’s tagging system. Topics do not imply an ideological stance: for instance, “guns” includes protests for and against gun control. The topics “racial justice or white supremacy,” “police,” and “women’s rights” were created by combining sub-tags within “civil rights.” “Other topics” refers to protests that were not about the eleven main topics above, not the “other” tag used by Count Love. Many protests are tagged in more than one topic, and are counted once within each of those topics.
Constellations were designed to highlight places with unusually high amounts of protests about a topic, given the place’s population and overall number of protests in that place. To be included in a constellation, a place had to have a high number of protests about the topic and a high number of protests per person about the topic. Additionally, a large percentage of all protests in that area needed to be about the topic. Each place within a constellation is connected to the place that most often protested about the same topic on the same weeks. For instance, San Diego-Carlsbad, CA tended to protest about immigration at the same time as El Paso, TX, so they are connected in the immigration constellation. A pair of places is also connected if it is in the 98th percentile of co-occurrence for that topic. El Paso is also connected to Austin-Round Rock TX, and Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA because they very frequently protest about immigration at the same time. The white dots for each place within a constellation are scaled based on the number of protests in that place, while the weight and opacity of the connections are scaled based on the number of weeks both places protested about the same topic.
Top topics by state
“Percent of protest in each state” is calculated by dividing the number of protests in a state about a topic by the total number of protests in that state. Topics are highlighted as particularly common or uncommon for each state if the percent of protests in that state were in the 80th percentile among all states, or in the bottom 25th percentile. If a state was in the 80th or 25th percentile more than two times, the top or bottom two topics were chosen.