Occupy Wall Street finds mainstream support

Will Oremus writes: If Occupy Wall Street is a fringe movement, it’s looking like a pretty big fringe.

In a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday, two-thirds of New York City voters said they support the protests. The backers included 81 percent of Democrats and, perhaps more surprisingly, 35 percent of Republicans. And an overwhelming majority, 87 percent, said it’s “okay that they are protesting.”

And for all the criticism lobbed at the protesters for not having a formal list of demands, their general message seems to be getting across. Nearly three-fourths of New York City voters said they understand the protesters’ views “very well” or “fairly well.”

Respondents split evenly on whether police are handling the protests well.

And who’s to blame for the nation’s economic mess? Thirty-seven percent of New York City voters fingered George W. Bush, while 21 percent blamed Wall Street, 18 percent Congress, and 11 percent President Obama. Those figures are probably not representative of the nation at large, however. The survey’s demographic summary shows that 55 percent of those polled were Democrats, while just 13 percent were Republicans, reflecting New Yorkers’ liberal bent.

Still, the numbers suggest it’s not just hippies and socialists who are rooting for the movement. The Washington Post’s Plum Line blog asks, “What if working class Americans actually like Occupy Wall Street?” Blogger Greg Sargent quotes union leader Karen Nussbaum as saying that the protests have helped organizers sign up tens of thousands of recruits in recent weeks:

“These are not the folks who normally wear dreadlocks and participate in drum circles,” Nussbaum says. “They’re working class moderates who work as child care employees or in cafeterias or in construction. They’re people who work in lower middle class suburbs around the country.” Pressed on whether the movement’s excesses and lack of a clear agenda risk alienating such voters, Nussbaum said: “We’re proving every day that that’s not the case.”

Indeed, a national poll last week found that the Occupy movement is twice as popular as the Tea Party. A Siena poll of New York state voters this week turned up similar numbers, with 49 percent saying they’d rather join Occupy Wall Street, while 28 percent picked the Tea Party.

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