Many social movements institutionalize and radicalize when nonviolent protest declines. Yet the sparse research addressing this issue has left underanalyzed and undertheorized the role of activist preferences in this process. Using the civil rights movement as our empirical referent, we investigate why some activists (nonviolent protestors) in the late sixties wanted the movement to switch to institutional or violent tactics rather than continue to rely on nonviolent protest. Our central data come from a large probability survey of mainly northern blacks in 1968. Using multinomial regression analysis, we find that feeling disappointed about racial progress pushes activists away from preferring nonviolent protest and instead toward favoring either more moderate or militant tactics. While voting and violence are quite dissimilar tactics, these findings demonstrate that a similar causal process pushes activists in the aggregate toward both directions.

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