Measuring the radical flank effect of radical environmental protest An analysis of Twitter data around an Extinction Rebellion protest in the Netherlands
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The last few years have seen a sharp increase in more extreme forms of protest, by groups and individuals that wish to get attention for the issue of climate change. Little is known about the effect of such protests, on the cause as a whole, and on other organisations that seek to promote action in less radical ways. This paper analyses the so-called radical flank effect, in which the appearance of more radical forms of protest increased support for less radical groups which advocate for the same cause. Simpson, Willer and Feinberg (2022) found this effect to be true with climate change protests., and also saw an increase in support for the cause as a whole, in a clinical setting where respondents were presented with groups that in reality did not exist. Instead, this research used data from Twitter to analyse the real life effect of a protest by the group Extinction Rebellion, which took place on 28 January 2023. During this protest, participants blockaded a section of the A12 Motorway which passes through the city centre of The Hague. The research examined the effect of the radical protest on four less radical advocacy groups: WWF/WNF, Urgenda, Milieudefensie and Greenpeace. Although a significant increase in mentions of the organisations was recorded, the share of positive messages was neither larger or smaller afterwards, which was not in line with the hypothesis of the radical flank effect.
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