Taking the measure of OWS
Pollster Doug Schoen, who’s worked for Bill Clinton and Michael Bloomberg, sent a researcher into Zuccotti Park on October 10 and 11 to take the measure of the Occupiers. Schoen wrote up his conclusions from this effort in a now-discredited op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:
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.
As several writers have pointed out, notably Azi Paybarah, Schoen misrepresented—to put it kindly—his own research. They’re not the radicals of his phantasmic summary.
A better overview was developed, using Schoen’s data, by John Nienstedt of Competitive Edge Research in San Diego, who posted it to the listserv of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), of which I’m a member. AAPOR etiquette requires members to ask permission of authors before reporting on their posts, and I’ve gotten that. Nienstedt asked me to point out that he’s totally nonpartisan and independent, which I’m happy to do, because he is.
Here’s Nienstedt’s taxonomy of the protesters:
4% Radical redistribution of wealth
4% Dissolution of our representative democracy/capitalist system
35% Influence the Democratic Party the way the Tea Party has influenced the GOP
9% Engage & mobilize Progressives
4% Single payer health care
4% Pull out of Afghanistan immediately
5% Overhaul of tax system: replace income tax with flat tax
27% Process-oriented (don’t neatly fit in my continuum)
11% Break the two-party duopoly
9% Promote a national conversation
7% Direct Democracy
8% Not sure
In other words, more than half are liberal, Democrats even, and less than one in ten are radicals—the same share who aren’t sure of what they are.
Though it’s all we have now, we don’t really know how accurate Schoen’s polling was. But if it’s anywhere near the truth, it really makes you wonder about the governance structure of OWS. By its own representation, the gathering is run by consensus and its official statements are supposed to be approved by a general assembly. But the GA’s decisions—like purging the Demands Working Group—may not be as democratic as they claim. More on this after I visit the Demands group’s meeting tonight.
In another post to the AAPOR listserv, Mike Mokrzycki—who also asked me to emphasize that he’s totally nonpartisan, so nothing he says should be construed as taking a political position—noted that OWS may be more popular than the Tea Party. As he points out, CNN/Opinion Research apparently stopped asking people if they were “active members” of the TP because they couldn’t get more than 2% of respondents to identify themselves as such. 2%! The TP does draw the sympathy of about 25% of the population. But most surveys show that a larger share of the public has a positive view of OWS than of the Tea Party. Of course, OWS doesn’t have billionaires funding its agenda.