Students want action on gun control.
Students want action on gun control.
After a Florida high school became the scene of the latest mass shooting tragedy, a group of students stepped forward to declare their determination to change gun policy.

    The latest violent outbreak occurred Feb. 14, when a troubled student with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle shot and killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Student leaders have already announced a march on Washington -- The "March for our Lives" -- to be held March 24 as part of the efforts to get policymakers to take action.
   These young activists are among the latest survivors of mass shootings. While outspoken, articulate and passionate, some are not of voting age and are unable to make monetary contributions to politicians or political causes. Can they succeed where others have failed? And how effective are protests? As it turns out, academics have studied these issues. Here is what they found:

Protests/marches:  Protests get television attention and grab headlines, but do activists get the change they want when they hoist signs and march through the streets?
    In fact, protests can work, according to a 2011 analysis published on the Harvard website. The study, "Do Political Protests Matter: Evidence from the Tea Party Movement,” by Andreas Madestam et al, found that organized protests led by conservative activists gave the movement a boost: “Larger rallies cause an increase in turnout in favor of the Republicans in the 2010 Congressional elections, and increase the likelihood that incumbent Democratic representatives retire. Incumbent policymaking is affected as well: representatives respond to large protests in their district by voting more conservatively in Congress. Finally, the estimates imply significant multiplier effects: for every protester, Republican votes increase by seven to fourteen votes.”

Boycotts:  The French opposed the war in Iraq in early 2003, which resulted in U.S. House cafeterias renaming French fries (freedom fries), along with calls for a boycott of French wine in the U.S.
    Freedom fries became a punch line for comics. But the wine boycott was serious business. “Conservative estimates indicate that the boycott resulted in 26 percent lower weekly sales at its peak, and 13 percent lower sales over the six-month period that we estimate the boycott lasted for,” reported a 2006 study, "Consumer Boycotts: The Impact of the Iraq War on French Wine Sales in the U.S.", by researchers Larry Chavis and Phillip Leslie, published online by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
   “These findings suggest that business should be concerned that their actions may provoke a boycott which hurts their profits,” the two wrote.
    Boycotts aren’t always effective in the long run, however. For one thing, boycotts are commonly used, notes the article, "To Boycott or Not: The Consequences of a Protest," on the University of Pennsylvania website.
    “Americus Reed II, a professor of marketing at Wharton who has studied how social identity drives consumer behavior, says for a boycott to succeed, the situation that incited it must be both visible and severe,” the website reports. A boycott can gain traction, but “there must be a low financial and psychological cost for consumers to get on board.”
     If the boycott punishes consumers, in other words, it might not work.

Social Media: The use and misuse of social media is at the heart of the investigation over the 2016 presidential campaign. Just about everyone is online, and 52 percent of respondents in a 2017 survey said that social media had some impact on their voting decision, according to research by the firm Finn Partners. Not only that, 80 percent of respondents believe that social media has an impact on public policy outcomes, including gun control, immigration and trade.  



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