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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Brian Lickel

Second Advisor

Evelyn Mercado

Third Advisor

Allecia Reid

Fourth Advisor

Tatishe Nteta

Subject Categories

Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Psychology


The killing of George Floyd in the summer of 2020 instigated one of the largest social movements in the United States history. Despite the wealth of research that has evaluated the efficacy of social movements using different social outcomes (Andrews, 1997; Biggs & Andrews, 2015; Branton et al., 2015; Enos et al., 2019; Gillion, 2012; Schwartz, 2016), less attention has been given to how social movements that concern racial issues impact racial attitudes (Riley & Peterson, 2020). Thus, the current research aimed to examine how Americans’ racial attitudes shifted in the period immediately following the onset of BLM protests. We particularly anchored on two competing theoretical perspectives on public opinion mobilization (i.e., Elite Opinion Theory and Theory of Activated Mass Opinion) to show how our findings of rapid shifts in racial attitudes is congruent with the Theory of Activated Mass Opinion that posits how bottom-up social movements can mobilize public opinion (Lee, 2002). We further build upon the cognitive framework of Zaller’s (1992) Receive-Accept-Sample (RAS) model to investigate how different individual, social, and contextual variables shape White Americans’ shifts in racial attitudes in this context. We found White Americans’ shifts in attitudes toward Blacks (but not Whites) significantly varied as a function of political party affiliation. Furthermore, we found evidence for the significant impacts of social and contextual factors (e.g., social network, neighborhood racial diversity, BLM protest proximity) that operate as bottom-up mechanisms in shifts in racial attitudes. We discuss how the current findings provide a consistent account to the core arguments of the Theory of Activated Mass Opinion (Lee, 2002).


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Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.