The impacts of climate protests on opinion and policy: the case of the Netherlands 2019
Dijk, P.H.J.M. van
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Significant parts of society have had enough of the ongoing and increasing ecological crisis, known as climate change, caused by our current ways of living. Society is responding to the climate crisis through collective action and formatting climate movements. These movements are crucial in achieving social and political transformations. They have the power to influence political and media agendas. Protests, one of the major tools climate movements use to cause change, have the potency to increase awareness and urgency of the problem by motivating public and political action. Social movement studies usually emphasize their research focus on single causal factors, such as public opinion, the political environment, or electoral competition. Studies that combine multiple key measures, track them over time or compare them through multiple relevant units concerning policy outcomes are lacking. The dissatisfaction with the status quo resulted in the largest global and national scaled climate protests in history in 2019. The impact of recent climate protests and how they affected the social- and political arena is still unclear. This research conducted an in-depth case study on if and how the series of climate protests between February and December 2019 affected public opinion and climate policies in the Netherlands. Determining a change in opinion was done by examining long-standing climate opinion polls and analyzing fluctuations in voting behaviour. Analyzing the parliamentary record determined a change in climate policies. Second, it explained why the series of 2019 climate protests caused a (lack of) change in public opinion and national climate policy. The research applied a media analysis to analyze if the in- and external conditions of the protest were found ideal. These conditions were derived from social movement and political process theory. The first findings showed no link between changes in national climate policies linked and the 2019 climate protests. This research also did not find a link between changes in public climate concern, beliefs on climate responsibility, and the 2019 climate protests. At last, the protests' magnitudes, level of disruption, lack of providing feasible solutions, and presence of political allies are not believed to explain the lack of impact. The timing and somewhat modest targets and demands from the main protests' organizers can partly explain the lack of impact. Overall, this research implies that the 2019 climate protests had little to no impact on national climate policy and opinion.