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Article

Truly Exceptional? Participants in the Belgian 2019 Youth for Climate Protest Wave

Trefwoorden protest, participation, inequality, climate change, Fridays For Future
Auteurs Ruud Wouters, Michiel De Vydt en Luna Staes
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    In 2019, the world witnessed an exceptional wave of climate protests. In this case study, we scrutinise who participated in the protests staged in Belgium. We ask: did the exceptional mobilising context of the 2019 protest wave also bring exceptional protesters to the streets? Were thanks to the unique momentum standard barriers to protest participation overcome? We answer these questions by comparing three surveys of participants in the 2019 protest wave with three surveys of relevant reference publics. Our findings show that while the Belgian 2019 protest was in many ways exceptional, its participants were less so. Although participants – especially in the early phase of the protest wave – were less protest experienced, younger and unaffiliated to organisations, our findings simultaneously confirm the persistence of a great many well-known socio-demographic and political inequalities. Our conclusion centres on the implications of these findings.


Ruud Wouters
Ruud Wouters, PhD, is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Antwerp. He studies protest participation and the impact of protest on media, public opinion and politics.

Michiel De Vydt
Michiel De Vydt is a PhD student at the University of Antwerp. He studies the micro-level predictors and outcomes of interpersonal protest recruitment.

Luna Staes
Luna Staes is a PhD student at the University of Antwerp. She studies how protest affects public opinion in the hybrid media environment. All authors are members of research group Media, Movements & Politics (M²P) at the political science department of the University of Antwerp.

    In 2019, the world witnessed an exceptional wave of climate protests. In this case study, we scrutinise who participated in the protests staged in Belgium. We ask: did the exceptional mobilising context of the 2019 protest wave also bring exceptional protesters to the streets? Were thanks to the unique momentum standard barriers to protest participation overcome? We answer these questions by comparing three surveys of participants in the 2019 protest wave with three surveys of relevant reference publics. Our findings show that while the Belgian 2019 protest was in many ways exceptional, its participants were less so. Although participants – especially in the early phase of the protest wave – were less protest experienced, younger and unaffiliated to organisations, our findings simultaneously confirm the persistence of a great many well-known socio-demographic and political inequalities. Our conclusion centres on the implications of these findings.

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