By Josh Richman / Oakland Tribune / November 29, 2011
California voters are almost evenly split, largely along ideological lines, over whether they identify with the Occupy movement, according to a new Field Poll.
The poll found 46 percent of California’s voting public identifies a lot or some with the Occupy movement, while 49 percent declare not much identification with it. But while voters are closely divided in their identification with the movement, a 58 percent to 32 percent majority say they agree with the protests’ underlying reason while the remaining 10 percent expressed no opinion. The pollsters didn’t provide those it surveyed with a description of that reason.
The movement centers on concerns about income disparity between the richest — the country’s 1 percent — and everyone else, or the 99 percent.
“What I guess I was expecting to see were big differences by age, by income class, and they’re not there,” Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said Tuesday. “There are modest differences by income, little difference by age, but really, what’s driving identification is your political orientation.”
Conservatives are very unlikely to identify with the movement, liberals are very likely to do so and independents are about evenly split, DiCamillo said.
Support was strongest — 55 percent — in Northern California regions excluding the Bay Area, followed by Los Angeles County, at 53 percent, and the Bay Area, at 48 percent.
DiCamillo said that for context’s sake, he went back and checked a similar poll asking about the tea party movement in January 2010; at that time, 28 percent of Californians identified strongly or somewhat with that movement.
By comparison, he said, Occupy is “a bigger, broader phenomenon” than the tea party, which was mainly just within the bounds of the Republican Party. “Here you have a much more amorphous movement — it’s broader, it has more people identifying with it.”
How this frustration will play into next year’s elections remains unclear.
The poll asked voters whether they felt the country would have a better chance of solving its economic problems by electing more Democrats or more Republicans to Congress. But about 4 in 10 of both Occupy movement sympathizers and non-sympathizers said neither, believing it wouldn’t make much difference which party gains strength in the 2012 elections.
However, 53 percent of Occupy movement identifiers believe electing more Democrats would benefit the economy, while just 5 percent believe electing more Republicans would do this. In contrast, voters who don’t identify with the Occupy movement think electing more Republicans would do more for the economy than electing more Democrats, 43 percent to 15 percent.
By a ratio of more than 2 to 1, Occupy movement identifiers blame financial institutions and Wall Street (52 percent) over the federal government (24 percent) for the country’s current economic problems. Meanwhile, those who don’t identify with the movement believe by a ratio of more than 3 to 1 that the government (64 percent) is at fault rather than the financial sector (20 percent).
That illustrates “the real schism that exists in our society today,” DiCamillo said. “If you can’t even agree on how we got to this problem, how are you ever going to agree on the solutions going forward?”
Also, more than 3 in 4 voters who identify with the Occupy movement — 77 percent — believe former President George W. Bush’s administration holds more responsibility for today’s poor economic conditions, while just 12 percent blame the Obama administration more.
Among those who don’t identify with the movement, 47 percent blame the Obama administration more and 37 percent blame the Bush administration more.
The poll of 1,000 California voters, conducted Nov. 14-27, has a 3.1-percentage-point margin of error.