Investigating the Yellow Vest’s (YV) attitudes to democracy, this paper assumes that levels of politicization and of populism are key in explaining their preferences for different types of democratic reforms. We first draw on quantitative analyses to demonstrate that compared to their French counterparts, the YV are more supportive of democratic innovations aiming at controlling and punishing elected representatives, and that greater populist attitudes enhance support for democratic innovations based on direct public control. These findings are then refined by means of quantitative textual analysis showing that discourses supporting control and sanction over political leaders are made by first-time protesters facing economic hardships and disgruntled with the political system, while more educated and politicized YV rather favor civic participation. We supplement these results with in-depth interviews delving deeper into democratic practices and emotions that drive these contrasted views on democracy. We find evidence of two typical logics and tones of discourse, largely structured by the experiences that those who hold them have of democracy. The first one, in favor of a better control and a stronger punishment of political elites, typically comes from angry and inexperienced first-time activists. The second one, rather willing to foster citizen participation, emanates from more experienced but also more disillusioned YV.
Stéphanie Abrial, research engineer, Pacte-CNRS, Grenoble Alpes University, France
Chloé Alexandre, PhD student, Sciences Po Grenoble – UGA, Pacte-CNRS, Grenoble Alpes University, France
Camille Bedock, CNRS researcher, Centre Emile Durkheim, Sciences Po Bordeaux, France
Frédéric Gonthier, Professor in Political Science, Sciences Po Grenoble – UGA, Pacte-CNRS, Grenoble Alpes University, France;
Tristan Guerra, PhD student, Sciences Po Grenoble – UGA, Pacte-CNRS, Grenoble Alpes University, France