By Dana R. Fisher, Professor of Sociology, University of Maryland
Since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the US, protests and demonstrations have become relatively commonplace around the United States: hundreds of thousands marched in pussy hats on the day after the inauguration; thousands stood in airports to show support for an America that is open to immigrants; tens of thousands of people marched (some sporting brain hats) to support science; hundreds of thousands circled the White House to show concern for climate change and the ways the new Administration is quickly undoing all political progress the previous administration made; and the town hall meetings of members of Congress have been flooded with attendees who want their elected officials to represent their interests. In other words, the election of Donald Trump has been a veritable shot in the arm to democracy in America. People are no longer bowling alone, they are marching and yelling together.
Since the inauguration, I have fielded research teams to survey participants at the large-scale protest events taking place in Washington, DC. So far, we have collected data at the Women’s March, the March for Science, and the People’s Climate March that coincided with Trump’s 100th day in office. Like my previous work, which surveyed a random sample of participants at large-scale protest events around various issues over the past 17 years, the research team at these events has administered a short anonymous survey to learn who is participating, what motivates them to participate, how civically engaged they are, how connected they are to the respective march’s organizational coalitions, and what are their demographics. Unlike my previous work, where we administered a two-sided one-page paper survey with clipboards and ballpoint pens, however, I recently decided to innovate the data collection process.