Effectiveness of protesters questioned
February 24, 2003 9:00 pm
In light of recent anti-war demonstrations, the question arises
of how much the several million activists ““ who have rallied
in over 600 cities ““ have accomplished through their
President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have said
the demonstrations by anti-war activists will not have an effect on
their policy decisions regarding war.
Bush asked Congress for approval to initiate a war against Iraq
in October and both houses voted in agreement by wide margins
““Â before the anti-war movement developed the head of
steam it currently has.
“The time for anti-war protest to be effective was in
October when Congress was debating the issue and elections were
about to occur,” said political science Professor John
“It’s pretty late, after the congressional vote has
been taken and the troops are massing for attack, to mount an
anti-war protest,” he said.
But he added, “It is not obvious that protests would have
been effective even at the time of the Congressional
Zaller said students and other anti-war activists may be more
successful working “inside the party system to nominate and
elect candidates who represent their views.”
The fact that those with political power claim political
demonstrations have no effect on decision making causes many to
question if any minds are being changed by the endless
“By going out and preaching anti-war, all protesters do is
bring in more people who jump on the bandwagon because they think
it sounds good,” said Chris Riha, a third-year business
economics student and member of Bruin Republicans.
Riha was part of a small counter-demonstration at an anti-war
rally in Los Angeles on Feb. 15
Anti-war demonstrators acknowledge they most likely won’t
affect people who are staunchly pro-war, but are rather looking to
sway those whose opinions are divided or haven’t been
“Some people have their minds made up, but many people are
still uninformed,” said Veronica Marks, a fourth-year
sociology student and anti-war activist who attended the last two
San Francisco demonstrations.
Marks protests to combat what she sees as a biased media and to
let people know Bush is a “tyrant.”
But according to a study by political science graduate student
Phil Gussin, the opinions of people who conditionally supported war
changed toward favoring war when shown photographs of Bush and then
of anti-war demonstrators.
“If anti-war demonstrators are trying to gather support by
having their pictures shown, they are having the opposite
effect,” Gussin said.
Subjects who were shown pictures of the president had a seven
percent higher approval rating for Bush compared to those who were
shown other, non-political pictures, Gussin said. Subjects shown
pictures of Bush and anti-war photographs had a 15 percent higher
approval rating than the control group, Gussin said.
Not only does the timing of the anti-war demonstrations appear
to be off to some, but others say protesters are not realistic
about what they are accomplishing.
“There are always protesters who know what they’re
talking about, but from what I’ve seen it’s just a
bunch of slogans,” Riha said.
But some said protests are a good way for people voice their
views on war and peace ““Â and that fighting for a cause
can’t hurt, even if the effort fails.
“Protests in general allow people to voice their opinion
in a public atmosphere … it’s never too late until the last
bomb hits,” said Jon English, a third-year economics student,
who said he has mixed feelings about a possible war with Iraq.