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A Small Minority But Major Changes

The '3.5% Rule' and how it could bring about change in a country


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It is proven that peaceful protests are twice as likely to achieve their goals compared to violent ones. Studies have confirmed that civil disobedience is not only morally correct, but a powerful method to shape world politics. With other factors taken into consideration, it takes about 3.5% of the population who are active protesters to bring about severe political changes. Author Erica Chenoweth, who collected data from 323 violent and peaceful protests showed that peaceful protests yield political change by as much as 53% compared to 26% for violent demonstrations.


Chenoweth linked the success rate of peaceful protests to the ability to recruit more participants from a broader demographic. This will cause a severe interruption that halts regular urban routine. Out of the 25 largest protests studied, 20 were peaceful, and 14 of these were successful. On average, peaceful protests attract four times more people compared to violent protests. Chenoweth also pointed out that there weren’t any campaigns that had failed after achieving a 3.5% participation at its peak – a phenomenon she called the “3.5% rule”. For example, the People Power campaign in Manila back in 1986 attracted two million participants and managed to bring down the Marcos regime within four days.


Additionally, peaceful protests also have fewer physical barriers for participants, as they do not need to be as fit as a fiddle to join. It is becoming increasingly evident that peaceful methods are much more effective than violent ones. Even with such a small minority, the level of active participation means many more people would tacitly agree with the cause.


The '3.5% rule': How a small minority can change the world