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Study on the Women's March wants to know what motivated St. Louis participants

The St. Louis research team for Mobilizing Millions. From left to right: Debadatta Chakraborty, Neeraja Kolloju, Kristen Barber, Debaleena Ghosh and Trisha Crawshaw. All five work with the Sociology Department at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.
Provided | Kristen Barber | SIUC
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The St. Louis research team for Mobilizing Millions. From left to right: Debadatta Chakraborty, Neeraja Kolloju, Kristen Barber, Debaleena Ghosh and Trisha Crawshaw. All five work with the Sociology Department at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Did you attend the Women’s March on St. Louis? An Illinois professor and her team of graduate students want to hear about your experience.

The Mobilizing Millions study, based at the University of California, Santa Barbara, aims to identify what motivated people to turn out en masse across the nation and around the globe.

“So many people are participating in politics who maybe have never participated before,” said Kristen Barber a sociology professor at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, who is part of the research team. “So, the questions really revolve around how this engagement might impact the size of future protests and participation.”

Responses have been solicited in an online survey and by researchers on the ground in seven cities including St. Louis. In the past month researchers have gathered over 3,000 responses from people in the United States. They've also heard from people in England and Australia.

Researchers on the St. Louis team said many  participants cited the Trump administration as their reason for marching.
Credit Kristen Barber | SIUC
Researchers on the St. Louis team said many participants cited the Trump administration as their reason for marching.

“I mean I think it’s easy to say there’s something about [President] Donald Trump, but there are so many social justice issues at risk,” said Barber, the research leader in St. Louis. “That has created an opportunity for people to come together in ways that they haven’t before.

Barber oversees four research assistants from SIU-C — one of whom is masters student Debadatta Chakraborty. Born in India, Chakraborty’s sociology studies focus on diasporic communities. Had she not been involved in the study, she would have attended the march on behalf of immigrant rights.

But Chakraborty said she was intrigued by a space where many causes converged.

“It was literally anything and everything,” Chakraborty, referring to the reasons people told her why they were marching. “Some were politically motivated, others came to fight issues of racism, or sexism — immigration policy. I mean, even though by its nature, a ‘women’s march’ sounds exclusive, I can’t tell you how inclusionary it was.”

While researchers expect to find that participants had many motivations for attending the march, they also recognize some people actively avoided it. In the coming weeks, the Mobilizing Millions study will release a survey for those who could not or chose not to attend.

The current survey closes Tuesday night.

“It’s an exciting time, no matter what your political perspective is,” said Zakiya Luna, the principal investigator and a UCSB professor. “Obviously there are a lot of people that want to get involved and know what’s next — this research is a part of that.”  

Follow Jenny on Twitter @jnnsmn

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