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Initial Results of an International Inquiry into Student Demonstrations for Climate Awareness

The Professorship for Central and Eastern European Studies at Chemnitz University of Technology participated in an international survey on the #FridaysForFuture student demonstrations that have been taking place worldwide

The #FridaysForFuture movement mobilised on 24 May 2019 for the second time as a part of an international Day of Action, a so-called ‘Climate Strike’. In the first instance, on 15 March 2019, a total of 1.6 million people worldwide took part in the student demonstration. During the first mobilisation, the Professorship of Central and Eastern European Studies at Chemnitz University of Technology, together with an international network of scientists, surveyed demonstrators in 13 cities in nine different countries. Overall, more than 10,000 protesters were approached, and nearly 2,000 surveys were completed. The Professorship for Central and Eastern European Studies was also involved in the survey of the second global mobilisation – and the team is now awaiting the results. Guided by the use of a research design that was based on the methodology of the large-scale project “Caught in the Act of Protest: Contextualising Contestation” (http://www.protestsurvey.eu), this survey makes it possible to make confident statements about those who support climate-friendly politics and have taken to the streets to show their support.

Young women are especially present at the demonstrations

“The results of the first survey, which are not a surprise, show that the demonstration mainly involved school students in the 14-19 year-old age group, even if the differences between the individual demonstrations were quite large. The median age for all samples is 21 years old, and this varies between 16 in Amsterdam and 40 in Brussels,” reports project manager Dr. Piotr Kocyba. More surprising than the young age of the demonstrators is the relative dominance of female participants. They made up 70 percent of protesters in Amsterdam, Florence, Warsaw and Vienna, for example. “Previous demonstration surveys show a more balanced relationship between the sexes, with feminist demonstrations attracting mostly women and right-wing demonstrations attracting predominantly men,” says Kocyba. The disproportionate amount of participation by women in the FFF demonstrations can be attributed to the strong presence of female leaders.

A new climate-protection movement seems to be establishing itself

Given the fact that they are relatively young, the scientists are not surprised by the fact that the demonstrators are often mobilising for the first time. On 15 March 2019, 38% of the demonstrating school students were taking part in a demonstration for the first time. The overwhelming majority of protesters are neither members nor financial supporters of an environmental organisation. Only 9.8% of the school students are either active or passive supporters of such an organisation. On the contrary, 35% of adult demonstrators are currently involved in an environmental organisation. The FFF movement, led by Greta Thunberg from Sweden, has been able to activate young people in civil society for the first time. 44.9% of the surveyed school students stated that Thunberg motivated them to participate in the demonstrations. “The significant number of young and often first-time activists seems to open up the possibility of establishing a new climate protection movement that goes beyond established actors and organisations to pursue its goals,” says Kocyba.

The Professorship of Central and Eastern European Studies at Chemnitz University of Technology was able to participate in the survey due to support from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The professorship was responsible for data collection in Warsaw and co-responsible in Budapest.

Report: Protest for a future: Composition, mobilization and motives of the participants in Fridays for Future climate protests on 15 March, 2019 in 13 European cities. Edited by Mattias Wahlström, Piotr Kocyba, Michiel De Vydt and Joost de Moor

For more information, please contact Dr. Piotr Kocyba, Phone +49 371 531-38521, E-mail piotr.kocyba@phil.tu-chemnitz.de.

(Author: Mario Steinebach / Translation: Jeffrey Karnitz)

Mario Steinebach
24.06.2019

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