Small numbers

The BBC recently published an article about how few people are needed to make fundamental changes to a society. Titled “The 3.5% rule“, it repeats research which has been around for quite a while. Though it seems to lower the numbers required to precipitate change. One of the observations the article makes is:

” although the exact dynamics will depend on many factors, she has shown it takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change. “

The article then goes on to say:

” Once around 3.5% of the whole population has begun to participate actively, success appears to be inevitable.

“There weren’t any campaigns that had failed after they had achieved 3.5% participation during a peak event,” says Chenoweth 

What makes this research getting an airing by the BBC interesting, is that people who like the BBC are also quite likely to dismiss concerns about immigration on the grounds that the numbers are small. That people’s concerns about the impact of immigration on social norms and society at large are unfounded because the numbers are small. 3.5% isn’t exactly a big number after all. Looking at ONS data after Christians ( which covers a lot of variants) and people with no religion the next largest group is Muslims. In the period April 2017 to March 2018 there where apparently 3,372,966 Muslins in Great Britain. That’s from a total population of 65,288,422 giving a percentage of 5.1% which is comfortably over the required 3.5% of the BBC article.

This isn’t to say that the Muslim population is about to embark upon some sort of revolutionary rampage. The research though does to me suggest that we shouldn’t dismiss concerns about changes to society on the grounds that a group is small. When someone says they’re worried about the impact of immigrants, “Nazi’s”, some other group on their town/school/country we should remember that it doesn’t take many people to cause change unless there is equally motivated resistance. Without an engaged population it would seem that society is more vulnerable to the diktats of small motivated minorities then perhaps many of us realise.

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