While nearly half of Californians do not personally identify with the Occupy movement, 58% agree with the underlying reasons for the protests, says the highly respected Field Poll in announcing survey results last week. If this were an election, the opposition would be stomped, as 58% is a landslide. Clearly, the Occupy protests are resonating with the general public, at least in California. While many of them may not see themselves camping out in a park, they indeed give Occupy moral support. This is unusual for a protest in the US. Usually, an energized minority is making noise while the general public is either apathetic or opposed to it. But this time is different. The poll numbers also suggest that Occupy, if it wants to grow, needs to perform greater outreach to those who support the protest movement but don’t yet identify with it.
Occupy supporters by large margins blame Wall Street and the Bush Administration for the financial crisis, while non-supporters blame the federal government and the Obama Administration. A startling 40% of all those polled thought that it makes no difference which party wins Congress in the 2012 elections. The remaining 60% were unsurprisingly highly partisan in their choice of parties. Also unsurprising was that 73% of Democrats identified with Occupy while only 23% of Republicans did. For those wondering why Occupy even has that level of support among Republicans, it’s important to note that the Tea Party, which was founded in protest against the bailouts of the big banks by the federal government, has endorsed OWS. Anger against Wall Street isn’t just coming from the left, more than a few right-tilting libertarians have similar sentiments.
75% of African-Americans and 50% of Latinos and Asians identify a lot or some with Occupy, compared to 42% of the state’s white non-Hispanic voters. Identification with Occupy drops sharply for those with incomes above $100,000. Oddly, the 50-64 age group voices the strongest identification while 18-29 has the least. Los Angeles County is a bastion of support while the Central Valley has the least. But even with all that, those identifying with Occupy a lot or some generally have 40-50% support across age, gender, and ethnic categories.
Support is much stronger for those agreeing with the reasons for Occupy. The Field Poll says “Majorities of voters in virtually every gender, age, race/ethnicity, household income and region of the state agree with the underlying reason for the protests.” 56% of those making above $100,000 agree with the reasons and 69% of those 18-29 do.
Journalist Marc Cooper says if OWS wants to expand, then it needs to build genuine coalitions. Specifically:
“If OWS aspires to embody the 99 percent then it is going to have to do the dirty work of reaching out to that other 98.9 per cent who have not yet participated…The tribal aspects of OWS, the concentration on camp kitchens, libraries, etc. are quaint but wholly irrelevant. They are ingrown and exclusionary…. The parks don’t matter. Power matters.”
OWS has had huge success and clearly resonates with many. To become a transformational force, it needs to grow beyond its roots into the populace at large.