According to a new study in the European Journal of Social Psychology by University of Toronto researchers, people generally hate activists, making them less likely “to adopt behaviors that these activities promoted.” Dislike of activists played “a key role in creating resistance to social change. The study cited several different studies to reach its findings:
- A study on 228 Americans found that activists were described in “overwhelmingly negative” terminology. Feminists were “man-hating” as well as “unhygienic”; environmentalists were “tree-huggers” and “hippies.”
- A second study of 17 male and 45 female college students found that the students were not interested in being friends with activists who participated in confrontational behavior.
- Another study looked at 140 Americans who read a piece on climate change and adopting “sustainable lifestyles.” One third of the participants were told that the author liked to “hold rallies outside chemical research labs”; another third were told that the author was “involved in organizing social events”; the final third were told nothing about the author. The first sub-group was least likely to adopt the recommendations made by the author.
The study states, “Unfortunately, the very nature of activism leads to negative stereotyping. By aggressively promoting change and advocating unconventional practices, activists become associated with hostile militancy and unconventionality or eccentricity.”