Can Counternarratives Reduce Support for Police Violence? Experimental Evidence from Brazil

Kellogg Institute Graduate Research Grants
Grant Year

Police violence, often backed by broad social segments, is a pervasive problem across countries. This study examines the impact of counter-narratives to dominant discourses about police violence on public opinion in Brazil, where political elites often employ and justify state repression, most victims are black, low-income men, and public support for police violence is high. We investigate the effectiveness of testimonies in reducing public support for police violence and increasing willingness to enact police reform. Drawing on a two-wave survey experiment, the study will randomly assign participants to competing narratives about a case of police violence. We argue that victims’ mothers can leverage their moral capital through personal testimonies to lower support for police violence by challenging dominant stigmatizing rhetoric and humanizing the victims. We contribute to debates about state violence and human rights violations in multiracial democracies.