How Urban Riots Influence Political Behaviour: Vote Choices after the 2011 London Riots

(with Peter John)

Abstract: What are the electoral consequences of urban riots? We argue that riots can highlight the problems suffered by those who participate, sending a signal that helps form an electoral coalition against local incumbents. We test this hypothesis with fine-grained geographic data that capture how exposure to the 2011 London riots changed vote choices in the subsequent 2012 mayoral election. We find that closeness to both riots and the homes of rioters raised white turnout and reduced the vote for the incumbent Conservative mayor, whilst not affecting the turnout or vote choices of black British voters. This provides support for the view that riots can help shift the vote against incumbents who oppose the policy goals of the rioters.