Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 August 2020
An extensive literature in political science and sociology has analyzed how state repression shapes attempts by social movements to pursue political objectives. Less studied, however, is the effect that state repression of activists has on the broader public. Understanding public responses to repression is important, as both states and social movements take action with an eye toward (de)mobilizing broader constituencies. This letter analyzes this dynamic in the context of contemporary Catalonia, where the Spanish state cracked down on efforts by Catalan activists to hold a public referendum on independence. Matching poll respondents in the months before and after the crackdown in late 2017, the study finds that repression increased public sympathy for independence for a short period, and heightened animosity towards actors perceived to be associated or complicit with the Spanish state. The findings speak to the potential for state repression of nonviolent movements to create windows of opportunity for broader mobilization.