New report reveals who the climate strikers are

2 May 2019

Greta Thunberg speaks to the Global Strike for Future rally at Mynttorget, Stockholm.

With her school strike outside the Riksdag, Greta Thunberg initiated what would become a global climate campaign on the part of school children. Who are the strikers? Researchers in 10 European countries have investigated. A new report shows that the majority of the demonstrators who participated in Global Strike for Future in Stockholm were already involved in the climate-change issue in various ways.

Held on 15 March, Global Strike for Future appears to be the largest globally coordinated youth protest ever seen, involving 2,000 demonstrations in almost 100 countries all around the world.

In order to study who is participating in these protests and what their position on the climate-change issue is, researchers in 10 European countries conducted a coordinated survey of those participating in the climate protests on 15 March. In Sweden the survey was conducted in Stockholm and Malmö. The survey was also conducted in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Poland and Austria.

Preliminary results from the Stockholm survey have now been presented and compared with the results obtained in Malmö and other European countries.

“Our results demonstrate that secondary and upper-secondary pupils constitute the largest group of climate strikers; however, there are also many adults participating in the protests. Women are in the majority among the protesters,” says Magnus Wennerhag, associate professor in sociology at Södertörn University, one of the researchers behind the report.

Inspired by Greta Thunberg

Over one third of the school pupils who participated in the Global Strike for Future in Stockholm had never previously participated in a demonstration; that said, a large proportion of them had campaigned for a better environment in some other way.

The vast majority of the climate strikers stated that Greta Thunberg had greatly or to some extent influenced their decision to participate in Global Strike for Future. When compared to climate strikers in other countries, the Swedish demonstrators were most influenced.

“What I found most interesting was the large extent to which adult demonstrators also claimed to have been inspired by Greta’s school strike,” says Per Adman, associate professor in political science at Uppsala University, who also participated in the survey.

“As a political scientist, I am otherwise clearly concerned by the very low faith shown by practically all of those who responded to the survey regarding the ability of politicians to deal with and resolve the climate issue.”

Problematic from a democratic viewpoint

Katrin Uba, associate professor in political science at Uppsala University, agrees that this is grounds for concern.

“A large proportion of protestors strongly agree or agree to a certain extent that: ‘The Government must act based on the opinions of climate scientists, even if the majority of citizens are opposed’. This shows that the demonstrators appear to trust research results; however, the willingness to disregard any possible public majority may be problematic from a democratic viewpoint.”

The report also contains data on level of education, organisational membership, information channels, political party sympathies and the climate strikers’ views on how climate change should be halted.

“A large proportion of activists already make many climate-friendly choices; for example, a change of diet or reduced consumption based on environmental, ethical or political grounds. This is important against the background of comments that children should be in school learning how to save the climate instead,” says Katrin Uba.

 

Facts

Researchers participating in the survey on Global Strike for Future, Stockholm:

  • Mattias Wahlström, senior lecturer in sociology, University of Gothenburg
  • Magnus Wennerhag, associate professor in sociology, Södertörn University
  • Per Adman, associate professor in political science, Uppsala University
  • Joost de Moor, postdoctoral researcher in political science, Stockholm University
  • Katrin Uba, associate professor in political science at Uppsala University