The core of the yellow vest movement rejects the far right

Jun 4th, 2019
Collective Quantité Critique
Daniel BRIOT / Flickr / CC0 1.0

Quantité Critique (Critical Mass) is a group of sociology lecturers, doctoral students and undergraduates who have been investigating social movements in France since September 2018. For their survey on the ‘gilets jaunes’ (yellow vests) movement, they distributed questionnaires in a number of national Facebook groups linked to the movement. A total of 526 questionnaires were returned, covering the respondents’ degree of politicisation and links to the world of work. The group is also carrying out field work on several roundabouts occupied by yellow vest protesters in the towns of Senlis, Compiègne and Beauvais, in the Oise department in northern France. This consists of a face-to-face questionnaire survey, whose results are currently being processed, as well as a qualitative survey involving some 50 interviews with activists.

Are the yellow vests a populist movement that provides a breeding ground for the far right? It is a hard-hitting question and one that can betray a disdain for the working classes when posed by certain commentators. Nonetheless, it does need to be asked, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the evidence from all sociological surveys is that the yellow vests and their supporters include large numbers of farright voters. While not in the majority, the presence of people espousing such political views raises questions about the yellow vests’ ability to constitute a movement in defence of democracy and social progress.