Friday, November 11, 2011

OWS – Asset or Threat to Democrats in 2012?

President Obama has said Occupy Wall Street (OWS) “expresses the frustrations that the American people feel.” Republicans hope that constitutes an endorsement. It’s not clear it does because, like most Democrats outside the far left, he is being cautious with the phenomenon. It is unclear the long-term affect of the group activities around the country will be a hit or a drag on politicians associated with it, and specifically, whether it will be a benefit to the Democratic Party.

Polling data shows that opinion concerning OWS is still forming and is likely to be volatile, reflecting its ongoing activities and relationship with local municipal authorities.

• Early support for the OWS is similar in some ways to early support for the Tea Party Movement. Many people identify with the group’s professed ideals and concerns, but are mostly undecided if they support it.

 66% of the public believes the distribution of money and wealth in the country “should be more evenly distributed”; 43% agree with views of OWS (New York Times, Oct. 24, 2011)

 On Oct. 13, a Wall Street Journal poll showed 37% support, 18% opposition and 45% no opinion or not sure. New York Times of Oct. 24: favorable – 25%, not favorable – 20% and undecided, have heard enough about – 53%

 39% say they support OWS; 35% oppose (32% support Tea Party) (Pew, Oct. 24, 2011)

• One challenge for the OWS is that by two-to-one most Americans believe that the federal government in Washington (64%) is more to blame for our economic problems than financial institutions on Wall Street (30%) (Gallup, Oct. 2011).

 Even Democrats tend to blame the federal government (49%) more than Wall Street (46%)

• The economy (38%) and jobs (19%) are the top problems facing the country. Income disparity is not on the public radar, and will require a major reframing of the problem (CBS News/New York Times, Sept. 2011).

• Some of the solutions offered by OWS involve more government. Adding to employment in Washington D.C. will not reduce income inequality. An analysis of the top 5 percent of U.S. earners shows that their median income nationally is $300,000, and in Manhattan $757,000. But Washington D.C. is 52 percent higher than the national average at $473,000 – federal government jobs and the industries, consultants and lobbying that service it pay well.

• In an effort to determine what OWS would like to achieve, an analysis of pollster Doug Schoen’s data shows that a majority (53%) were liberal wanting to influence the Democratic Party, mobilize progressives, have a single-payer system and get out of Afghanistan now.

 8% were radical (redistribute wealth/end capitalism) (AAPOR online discussion).

 27% want to change the process and end two-party system, implement direct democracy.

 5% – a few offered conservative nostrums, such as ending the progressive income tax.

Democrats benefit from the OWS if the enthusiasm and message of economic justice can motivate the base without turning off moderates the way some of the extreme elements of the Tea Party Movement hurt Republicans in the mid-term senate races in 2010.

While Republicans are working hard to describe the OWS crowd as extremists with Democratic ties, they must be cautious about their image as defenders of the rich and appearing indifferent to the plight of the poor.

See articles:
Pew – Public divided over Occupy Wall Street movement
Gallup – Americans blame gov’t more than Wall Street for economy

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