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Atmosphere of Change

UMD Sociologist Takes Temperature of D.C. Climate Strike

By Chris Carroll

Young people hold protest signs at climate strike in DC

Photo by Getty Images; Infographic by Valerie Morgan

Sociology Professor Dana R. Fisher (below, at the 2019 Women's March in January) surveyed participants at last week's climate strike protest in Washington, D.C.

Half the crowd at Friday’s climate strike in Washington, D.C., was 22 or younger—mostly veterans of previous protests on topics from climate change to gun control and women's rights. They support Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 presidential by a margin of more than 2–1 over the next most popular contender, Bernie Sanders. And 58 percent of protesters were female.Dana Fisher

We have this snapshot of the perhaps 12,000–15,000 protesters who turned out, thanks to ongoing research by sociology Professor Dana R. Fisher, one of the leading scholars of protest movements. The author of the upcoming book, “American Resistance,” about a coalition of left-leaning groups challenging the Trump administration, she has developed a method for randomly sampling crowds at such events that she’s studied for nearly 20 years.

For Friday’s event, in addition to surveys that she and students from UMD collected in the crowd, she conducted a survey of the hosts of the 633 climate strikes taking place nationwide. Among other findings, the D.C. participants were both significantly less left-leaning and more likely to be male, transgender or gender-nonconforming, compared to the nationwide group.

But the real story of the day was the rising tide of youth, she said.

“The young people came out, and they’re highly engaged in politics already,” Fisher said. “Whether the young in general will mobilize is still an open question, but this group is voting—and they’re supporting Elizabeth Warren.”

Here are some of her major findings.

Climate strike infographic



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