Up to now the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests have been like a Rorschach test; what you saw was primarily a reflection of what you believed. Some have wandered through the protesters and drawn their own conclusions, like James Taranto, who said the people he met were “endearingly earnest,” and “very nice.” He admits that “Possibly there was a selection bias at work” since “disruptive elements” were marching elsewhere when he visited.
So now we have the first actual survey and here’s what it shows.
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%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.
The vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15%) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1%).
An overwhelming majority of demonstrators supported Barack Obama in 2008. Now 51% disapprove of the president while 44% approve, and only 48% say they will vote to re-elect him in 2012, while at least a quarter won't vote.
Fewer than one in three (32%) call themselves Democrats, while roughly the same proportion (33%) say they aren't represented by any political party.
What binds a large majority of the protesters together—regardless of age, socioeconomic status or education—is a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas.
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%-22%), they support raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but 58% oppose raising taxes for everybody, with only 36% in favor. And by a close margin, protesters are divided on whether the bank bailouts were necessary (49%) or unnecessary (51%).
Thus Occupy Wall Street is a group of engaged progressives who are disillusioned with the capitalist system and have a distinct activist orientation. Among the general public, by contrast, 41% of Americans self-identify as conservative, 36% as moderate, and only 21% as liberal. That's why the Obama-Pelosi embrace of the movement could prove catastrophic for their party.
Now, people who have no use for capitalism and are ready to go to the barricades to redistribute my wealth may, when you talk to them, be very nice people and endearingly earnest. But at the risk of invoking Godwin’s law we are reliably told that Hitler loved dogs and his secretaries adored him, along with a large swath of the German people. Lots of people who are nice one-on-one are moral monsters when it comes to public policy, taking seriously the reminder that you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
We have seen countless examples of anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, Nazis and Communists joining together, the demand for sex with animals (I kid you not), and simple loonieness on public display as part of a series of nation-wide OWS demonstrations. If these have been exhibited by the Tea Party they would have led the nightly news and spread across the nation’s newspapers. But since they represent the media’s own ideology, they are airbrushed away or left on the cutting room floor.
Thanks to YouTube, Andrew Breitbart and a lot of conservative bloggers the real nature of the OWS activists are being exposed. The result will be the kind of landslide repudiation that followed the Viet Nam war protests in the 1960s which led to Richard Nixon’s election. The only people who actually believe that the OWS protests help the Democrats are those who believe what the protesters believe. Let’s not disabuse them.