Up until now we’ve been relying mainly on the incoherent ramblings of Occupy Wall Street activists to get an idea of what’s driving the movement. But Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen finally gives us some statistical insight into what OWS actually believes, with a must-read column today in the Wall Street Journal.
Schoen’s polling firm interviewed 200 activists in Zuccotti Park last week:
Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn’t represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52 percent) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98 percent) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31 percent) would support violence to advance their agenda.
The vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15 percent) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1 percent).
Already you can see the potential crisis here for Democrats. Most Americans might be unhappy with the economy and Washington politics, but they at least trust the political system and use those mechanisms to effect change. When someone starts supporting violence (as nearly one-third of OWS does), or civil disobedience (as virtually the entire movement does), it’s a sign he’s lost faith in the system. These aren’t the people who are going to be running to the ballot box to vote Democrat next November.
And while Obama has said the activists represent the real concerns of Americans, Schoen found they’re actually ideologically homogeneous, in a way that’s radically out of step with the general public:
Sixty-five percent say that government has a moral responsibility to guarantee all citizens access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement—no matter the cost. By a large margin (77 percent-22 percent), they support raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but 58 percent oppose raising taxes for everybody, with only 36 percent in favor. And by a close margin, protesters are divided on whether the bank bailouts were necessary (49 percent) or unnecessary (51 percent).
While not much of the data comes as a surprise, it still contradicts a lot of the messaging from the Obama campaign. OWS isn’t a product of “the same conversations people are having in living rooms and kitchens all across America.” The majority of the protesters are habitual activists with socialist beliefs. They have little in common with the average American. And the longer the Obama campaign flirts with the movement, the clearer that will become to voters.