Marjorie Connelly - Zuccotti Park in New York’s financial district is decked out with posters and signs for the wide array of political viewpoints of the Occupy Wall Street protesters. The six-week-old movement has several Web sites to promote various perspectives. But just who are these protesters? What is their political ideology? Do they have jobs?
Costas Panagopoulos, a professor of political science at Fordham University, recently conducted a survey of the Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York.
Dr. Panagopoulos described the protesters as “disgruntled Democrats.” Sixty percent of those surveyed said they voted for Barack Obama in 2008, and about three-quarters now disapprove of Mr. Obama’s performance as president. A quarter said they were Democrats, but 39 percent said they did not identify with any political party. Eleven percent identified as Socialists, another 11 percent said they were members of the Green Party, 2 percent were Republicans and 12 percent say they identified as something else.
Questionnaires handed out by Dr. Panagopoulos’s team of 15 interviewers throughout the park were completed by 301 adults from Oct. 14 to Oct. 18. “I followed the academic protocols that colleagues of mine adopted in the past to survey demonstrations,” he said.
In the survey, 80 percent described themselves as liberal; half of those said they were extremely liberal.
Most protesters surveyed had serious misgivings about the federal government: 52 percent said the government in Washington could be trusted to do what was right only some of the time, and another 42 percent said it could never be trusted. Similarly, almost all — 97 percent — disapprove of how Congress is doing its job.
Three in 10 of the Occupy Wall Street protesters picked unemployment as the most important problem facing the country, by far the top response. Ten percent said health care, followed by the federal deficit and government spending (9 percent) and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (9 percent).
Although most elected Democrats have offered only guarded support of the movement, more than two-thirds of those surveyed say the protest is likely to have an effect on the views of Democratic politicians. “They have ambitious expectations of the Democrats,” Dr. Panagopoulos said. “And are likely to be disappointed if their optimism is misplaced.” Most think the protests are less likely to change the opinions of Republican politicians.
Two-thirds of the survey respondents have attended college, and 25 percent are currently students. Thirty percent have full-time jobs and 18 percent are employed part-time. Forty percent are members of a union household. (Nationally, in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, 58 percent of the general public have attended college and 62 percent are employed, either full-time or part-time.)