By Erin Pinkus and Mark Blumenthal
The millions who joined Women’s Marches on the day after Donald Trump was sworn in as president represent a unique cross-section of political activism. According to SurveyMonkey’s polling they were exceptionally well-informed, mostly college educated, mostly (but not entirely) female, disproportionately white, and united by their intense antipathy to the new president.
Six percent of the adults interviewed in SurveyMonkey’s recent national survey, conducted January 26-30, said they “attended or marched in person” at any of the Women’s Marches on Saturday, January 21. What these marchers have in common is not altogether surprising. The vast majority intensely disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his role as president (88 percent disapprove, and 85 percent “strongly disapprove”). Nearly all identify as or lean Democrat (85 percent), 72 percent describe themselves as liberal, and almost eight in 10 marchers (79 percent) say they voted for Clinton in the 2016 election (8 percent say they voted for Stein, and 5 percent say they did not vote).
The marchers are heavy news consumers. By and large, a greater proportion of marchers are tuned in to a variety of news sources either daily or almost daily, compared to all others surveyed. New York Times, NPR, CNN, Washington Post, and MSNBC get the most traffic from marchers, whereas the top two news sources overall were CNN and FOX News.
The reactions of Marchers to Trump’s inauguration are similar to those who merely disapprove of Trump, except that they show more intensity of feeling. Marchers alone may only be marginally more fearful (+3 percentage points) than all people interviewed who disapprove of Trump, but feelings of shame and anger are amplified (+13 and +23 percentage points, respectively).
March participants not only showed up to protest on Day One of the Trump presidency but they are energized and say they will channel the momentum into local politics in the coming years. Half of the marchers are worried that their family will be worse off financially in a year and 87 percent believe the country is headed for periods of widespread unemployment or depression within the next five.
These results underscore their concern for the future of the nation and help explain why three-fourths (76 percent) of marchers say they plan to protest or demonstrate again in the coming years. Only 16 percent (a full 60 percentage point difference) of all people surveyed say they plan to do the same.
While these results paint a picture of who attended the marches, the six percent represented in our sample is high compared to separate estimates of the crowd sizes by FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver and political scientists Jeremy Pressman and Erica Chenoweth. Both FiveThirtyEight and Pressman and Chenoweth’s estimates put the total for the Washington, D.C. March plus more than 500 “Sister Marches” across the U.S at somewhere between 3 and 5 million, which amounts to 1 to 2 percent of all U.S. adults, proportions considerably smaller than our survey estimate.
What explains the difference? Keep in mind that SurveyMonkey’s goal in asking about the Marches was not to estimate the crowd sizes, but rather to try to identify marchers and paint a more complete picture of the who they are. But that said, we provide three potential explanations.
First, it is possible that the various crowd counts understated the actual attendance to some degree, particularly at the many spontaneous, unofficial “Sister Marches” nationwide.
Second, respondents often overreport socially desirable behaviors, including those related to politics. For example, in surveys taken after an election, more people report having voted for the winner than the loser, and more people report having voted than records indicate actually voted. This could be a similar scenario.
Finally, it is also possible that marchers were disproportionately represented among SurveyMonkey’s respondents — all of whom have internet access and had to participate in a survey on SurveyMonkey’s platform.
One finding that boosts our confidence in our survey’s snapshot of marchers is that the distribution of the cities in which they marched, from a follow-up question, nearly matches the distribution of the more rigorous crowd count estimates, varying for most cities by no more than a few percentage points. Particularly the main resistance movement in Washington, DC where our reported 17 percent is on target with Pressman and Chenoweth’s crowd estimates and just slightly above the 15 percent as estimated by FiveThirtyEight.
Check back on Wednesdays where we will be taking a weekly pulse of Trump’s approval. See how Trump performed last week here.
Methodology: This SurveyMonkey Tracking poll was conducted online January 26-30, 2017 among a national sample of 4,443 adults ages 18 and up. Respondents for this survey were selected from the nearly 3 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Data for this week have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States. Detailed breakdowns of the results can be viewed here.