Science Photo Library - NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY
Science Photo Library - NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY
Ross Martinie Eiler feels political demonstrations should be focused.

“There have been a lot marches where people are shouting at the sky and they aren’t particularly inspiring,” the Bloomington activist said. “I’m interested in a group asking for things that can be given from the people who can give it.”

That’s why today’s Bloomington Climate Strike is set to conclude with a presentation of actions the city can take to address climate change. But the sight of a rally in Dunn Meadow and a march to City Hall might help change public opinion.

A study from Nathaniel Geiger, assistant professor in the Indiana University Media School, and scholars at Penn State University found climate change marches may have a positive impact on whether the public believes in climate change.

The study looked at the potential impact of the People’s Climate March and the March for Science in 2017. Surveys of about 300 people were conducted before and after the marches. A comparison of the results indicated bystanders’ impressions of the marchers improved after the march.

Some of the most surprising results were found in differences between survey participants who read or listen to conservative media and those who consume liberal media, Geiger said. Before the marches, survey participants who consume conservative media were more pessimistic about people’s ability to get together and work in a big group. After the marches, the pessimism that had been more prominent in survey participants who consume conservative media had gone away.

“It appeared to be depolarizing,” Geiger said.

The paper, “Climate Change Marches as Motivators for Bystander Collective Action,” was published in Frontiers in Communication: Science and Environmental Communication. It, and other work examining the potential impacts of protests, shows public perception can vary based on the structure of the demonstration as well as the media coverage, Geiger said.
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