Pollsters on the Occupy Movement

Polling data on the Occupy Movement has come a long way since New York Magazine’s early October survey of 100 “in it for the long haul” Zuccotti Park protesters confirmed conventional media wisdom that the occupiers were mostly young, male, wildly liberal, and uninformed about the workings of Wall Street. Predictably, some media outlets took the tongue-in-cheek poll (and the magazine’s subsequent quiz) seriously.

Two months into the Occupy movement, polling firms are complicating this image. Recently, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released new demographic profiles of Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party supporters, based on a national poll conducted in mid-November with the Religion News Service.

The PRRI/RNS poll found that equal numbers of Americans believe that the Occupy and Tea Party Movements share their values, a statistic that’s been showing up in news reports, on movement-related websites and in the religion blogosphere over the last few weeks.

But as PRRI CEO Dr. Robert P. Jones notes in a press release about the survey,

“The symmetry in the number of Americans who say the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street Movements share their values obscures the different profiles of movement supporters…Support for the Tea Party is more intensely concentrated among Republicans, while support for the Occupy Wall Street movement is less intense among Democrats, but more broadly spread among other groups like political moderates.”

In an analysis of the demographic data, PRRI staffer Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux writes that

“[S]upporters of the OWS movement are younger, more ethnically diverse, and less likely to be registered to vote than supporters of the Tea Party. OWS supporters are also more ideologically diverse, which perhaps speaks to the movement’s myriad of goals and issues. The ethnic diversity of the OWS movement also presents logistical problems – for example, according to [John] Helleman’s article [in New York Magazine], there were fears among OWS organizers that open opposition to the Obama presidency could alienate black supporters. But perhaps most worrying for those who hope that the OWS movement will have a tangible impact on the political system is the fact that OWS sympathizers are less likely to be registered to vote.”

It’s worth noting that the PRRI/RNS statistics aren’t the only ones making the rounds. Also in mid-November, Public Policy Polling found that support for the Occupy movement nationally had fallen slightly over the previous month, while support for the Tea Party’s goals had risen in the same period. A slightly earlier McClatchy-Marist poll showed similar levels of support for OWS to those found by PRRI/RNS, and slightly lower levels of support for the Tea Party. In late October, a CBS/New York Times poll found that 43 percent of Americans agreed with the goals of Occupy Wall Street. And in late November, a USA Today/Gallup poll found that 59 percent of Americans didn’t know enough about OWS to have an opinion.

You can read more about the PRRI/RNS survey at the Public Religion Research Institute website, here, here, and here.

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