A New Climate Movement? Extinction Rebellion’s Activists in Profile

Graeme Hayes, Brian Doherty, Clare Saunders

Research output: Preprint or Working paperWorking paper


Extinction Rebellion set out to mobilise a new generation of activists. As our data shows, they have in part succeeded: participants in Extinction Rebellion's two major actions in London in 2019 had notably little prior experience of protest action, and we encountered many first-time activists. At the same time, however, our socio-demographic profile of XR's activists in the UK reveals a broadly familiar kind of environmentalist: XR's activists are typically highly-educated and middle-class (and though our survey did not explicitly ask this, white); they identify politically on the Left; and they consciously adopt multiple pro-environmental behaviours in the course of their everyday lives.
XR's strength has been to create a new public agency amongst people who are not 'natural' protesters, and perhaps even less so natural law-breakers, but who were already persuaded of the rightness of the climate cause, and frustrated with the inability of both 'politics as usual' and lifestyle environmentalism to bring about the kind of transformative political change that the climate emergency demands. Mobilising this group enabled XR to significantly expand the numbers of people willing to engage in environmental direct action, broadening its age profile, and bringing non-violent direct action on climate change into the centre of political life in the UK.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages41
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2020

Publication series

ISSN (Print)2397-8341

Bibliographical note

© CUSP 2020. The views expressed in this document are those of
the authors. This publication and its contents may
be reproduced for non-commercial purposes as
long as the reference source is cited.

Funding: The financial support of the Economic and Social Research Council for the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (ESRC grant no: ES/M010163/1) is gratefully acknowledged


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