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Protests that bring many people to the streets who agree among themselves and have a single message are most likely to influence elected officials, suggests a new study.
“We found that features of a protest can alter the calculations of politicians and how they view an issue,” said Ruud Wouters, an assistant professor of political communication and journalism at the University of Amsterdam and the lead author of the study. “More specifically, the number of participants and unity are the characteristics of a protest that have the greatest ability to change politicians’ opinions.”
Nearly 90 percent of Americans are under stay-at-home and organizational closure orders from their state governors or city mayors (Washington Post, April 2, 2020). These orders may carry legal weight but have rarely been strictly enforced by police. Yet as of March 30, 53 percent of individuals were complying (CNN Ipsos poll, April 1). By April 7, 87% practiced social distancing (Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, April 17); 80% supported social distancing even if it damaged the economy (Politico poll, Star-Tribune, April 18).
We are in the midst of a pandemic. But that midst differs by place. Health crises exacerbate underlying inequities, and countries vary in expertise, infrastructure, and the will to address them. As sociologists who study global heath and development across several world regions (Africa, Latin America, and Asia), we understand the importance of recognizing the multiplicity, but also the commonality, of challenges.