“Systems Change Not Climate Change”: Support for a Radical Shift Away from Capitalism at Mainstream U.S. Climate Change Protest Events

Christopher Todd Beer


Social movements and academic research debate about how to address

 climate change. One such debate asks whether climate change should be
 addressed by new policies and technological innovation within the existing
 economic system or if it requires a more fundamental change to the system.
 How much do mainstream climate change protestors support a radical shift
 away from capitalism to address climate change? Using original survey data
 collected during major U.S. climate change movement events, I examine the
 individual-level predictors of protestors' support for a radical shift away
 from capitalism and the demographics of mainstream climate change

 The survey research conducted at the 2014 People's Climate March and the
 2017 March for the Climate, Jobs, and Justice in DC indicates that a
 majority of mainstream climate change protesters in the US support a radical
 shift away from capitalism in order to address climate change.

 The results come from over 1800 responses to survey data collected at the
 two largest single-event climate change mobilizations in the US.
 56% of respondents agreed that effectively addressing climate change will
 require a radical shift away from capitalism.
 Females, racial and ethnic minorities, those with less than a college
 degree, those with lower household incomes, and the more politically liberal
 were more likely to strongly agree that effectively addressing climate
 change will require a radical shift away from capitalism.

 The research also reports the general demographics of the participants in
 these mass-mobilization climate change protests:
 Women were slightly more likely to participate than men. 56% of the sample
 identified as female.
 The protests were disproportionally white. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of
 the protesters at the two events were white. 6% identified as Asian, 6.5% as
 Black, 7% as Hispanic/Latino, 1.5% as Native American, and nearly 6% as
 Compared to the general population in the US, the participants were highly
 educated with 79% having earned a college degree or more.
 Protest participants came from households with higher than average incomes.
 Half the participants reported incomes that placed them in the upper-middle
 or upper class (measured as the top two quintiles of income distribution for
 the respective years).
 Politically, nearly 44% of the sample of protesters identified as extremely
 liberal and nearly 41% identified as politically somewhat liberal. 14%
 identified as moderates, and only 2% identified as somewhat or extremely
 Those disadvantaged by the capitalist market from an economic and status
 perspective are more likely to support a dismantling of the system to solve
 other crises as well - in this case, the climate crisis. 

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