Affective Polarization of a Protest and a Counterprotest: Million MAGA March v. Million Moron March

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Protest movements around the world have become increasingly likely to incite counterprotests that adopt an opposing stance. This study examines how a protest and a counterprotest interact with and shape each other as digitally networked connective action. My empirical focus is the so-called Million MAGA March—in which supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump protested the “stealing” of the November 2020 election by his rival, Joe Biden—and a counterprotest that erupted simultaneously. Drawing on a computational mixed-methods approach to examine two corpora of tweets featuring hashtags used by protesters and counterprotesters, respectively, the study identifies three mutually reinforcing dimensions of protest–counterprotest interaction: affective repertoires, discursive strategies, and network structures. It argues that “affective polarization”—or negative partisanship driven by hostility toward an outgroup—offers a useful conceptual means of understanding the significance of affect and collective identity in digital social movements, especially protest–counterprotest interactions. In doing so, the study also addresses concerns that “big data” methods are insensitive to the role of identity and expressive communication in social movements. Finally, the study demonstrates how online and offline political action are mutually constitutive aspects of contemporary contentious politics.
Original languageEnglish
Article number00027642221091212
Number of pages22
JournalAmerican behavioral scientist
Early online date26 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2022


  • Trump
  • Twitter
  • affective polarization
  • election
  • protest
  • social movement


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