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In September 2019, the third Global Climate Strike organized by the Fridays For Future (FFF) protest campaign mobilized 6000 protest events in 185 countries and brought 7.6 million participants out onto the streets. This report analyses survey data about participants from 19 cities around the world and compares it to data from an international survey conducted in 13 European cities in March 2019. Both surveys collected data following the well-established “Caught in the Act of Protest” survey methodology in order to generate representative samples.
What makes FFF new and particularly interesting is the involvement of schoolchildren and students as initiators, organizers and participants in climate activism on a large scale. The September mobilizations differed from the March events in the explicit call for adults to join the movement. Although older age cohorts were more strongly represented in September, young people continued to make up a substantial portion of the protestors – almost one third of demonstrators were aged 19 or under. Additionally, there was a high proportion of female FFF protestors. In both surveys nearly 60% of participants identified as female – with the largest share among the youngest demonstrators.
Overwhelming majorities of adult participants were well educated and had a university degree. Moreover, a large proportion of young people participating in the September strikes had parents who had studied at university level.
Despite the young age of the participants, interpersonal mobilization was the predominant method of recruitment to the strikes, particularly among friends and schoolmates. However, the growth in the size and popularity of the movement also includes a growing share of people who participate alone. Around a quarter of adults fit this category, as well as an initially small but growing number of young people.
When expressing their emotions concerning climate change and global warming, the majority of protesters felt worried, frustrated and angered, as well as anxious about the future, although they did not often express a feeling of hopelessness. Therefore, despite a general tendency of decreasing hopefulness that important environmental issues can be addressed through policies, FFF participants show that their action is driven by feelings, awareness of the issues and a willingness to engage in finding solutions. In answer to a series of questions concerning solutions to environmental problems, respondents were divided over whether modern science could be relied on to solve environmental problems. Agreement varied between cities and age-groups on the degree to which they thought stopping climate change could be accomplished through voluntary individual lifestyle changes. However, there was more unity in skepticism towards relying on companies and the market to solve these problems.
In conclusion, surveys of the strikes in March and September indicate important elements of continuity, as well as a small degree of change. Female participants and people with higher education predominate, interpersonal mobilization – particularly among friends – remains a central factor in recruiting support, and protesters are mostly driven by feelings of frustration, anger and anxiety. However, the age of protestors is becoming more diverse, protesters’ hopefulness seems to be in decline, and the “Greta effect” is becoming less influential. The report findings suggest that the movement is becoming more established although its emotional basis for mobilization may be changing.