If a recent opinion survey by Public Policy Polling is any indication, the end of the full Occupation of Wall Street might have been the best thing that could have happened to the movement. Not because it will earn them public sympathy, but because the occupation itself had become the least sympathetic thing about the group.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is not wearing well with voters across the country. Only 33% now say that they are supportive of its goals, compared to 45% who say they oppose them. That represents an 11 point shift in the wrong direction for the movement’s support compared to a month ago when 35% of voters said they supported it and 36% were opposed. Most notably independents have gone from supporting Occupy Wall Street’s goals 39/34, to opposing them 34/42. … what the downturn in Occupy Wall Street’s image suggests is that voters are seeing the movement as more about the ‘Occupy’ than the ‘Wall Street.’ The controversy over the protests is starting to drown out the actual message.
The author, PPP’s Tom Jensen, says he believes this turnaround is not because Americans are not concerned about inequality; to support that opinion, he cites three earlier polls (done, let’s note, for very a couple of very left-wing organizations). But those results don’t exactly square with the contrast between support for OWS’s goals and those of the tea party, which he mentions in the same post:
Voters don’t care for the Tea Party either, with 42% saying they support its goals to 45% opposed. But asked whether they have a higher opinion of the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street movement the Tea Party wins out 43-37, representing a flip from last month when Occupy Wall Street won out 40-37 on that question. Again the movement with independents is notable- from preferring Occupy Wall Street 43-34, to siding with the Tea Party 44-40.
I don’t think one can equate 42-45 approval/disapproval ratings, within the poll’s margin of error (3.5 percent), with a 33-45 split. And the rest of the numbers, particularly the ones for independent voters, speak for themselves.
To the degree that the tea party and OWS have identified some of the same problems — e.g., bailouts and other examples of crony capitalism — it would appear the tea partyers are better spokespeople. If the Occupiers want to change that, they’ll have to figure out how to do something other than form dirty, crime-ridden squatters’ encampments. That wasn’t working.
– By Kyle Wingfield