Will Occupy Wall Street prove a major turnoff to independents, moderates, and the blue collar whites in swing states Obama needs for reelection — just as the “McGovernite” liberal middle class activists drove away working-class and moderate voters in the late 1960s and early 1970s? Conservative commentators — and some neutral ones — continue asserting with great confidence that it will.
But for these critics, it’s always 1970, and we now have three national polls that suggest there’s no evidence this is happening.
Today’s new CNN poll finds that a slim plurality of overall Americans, 32 percent, views the movement favorably, versus 29 percent who view it unfavorably.
Among moderates, a plurality of 32 percent view it favorably, versus 26 percent who say the opposite. And among independents, a slimmer plurality of 33 percent view it favorably, versus 30 percent who say the opposite. A third or fewer of these voters give Occupy Wall Street the thumbs down.
This comes after a Time poll that found that majorities, including of independents, view the protests favorably, and a National Journal poll which also found that majorities, including of blue collar whites, agree with the protesters. Conservatives responded to those polls, with some justification, by pointing out that the question wording described the movement in a sympathetic light by conveying its views.
Today’s CNN poll doesn’t find as much support for the movement, and in the key categories, there are sizable numbers who have no opinion or haven’t heard of it. As it turns out, the CNN poll doesn’t describe the protests, only referring to them as “Occupy Wall Street.” And so, in a sense, this does confirm that the previous polls may hve increased support with their descriptions of the movement. However, this does not necessarily mean that the conservative prediction of unpopularity for Occupy Wall Street will come true. After all, the questions described the movement’s general principles relatively accurately, and if that counts as sympathetic wording that resulted in higher numbers, it’s probably because people agree with those principles.
At any rate, the CNN poll suggests there is still no evidence that the movement is driving away the middle. And it’s clear that there’s still room for the movement to gain sympathy among such voters — though the opposite, obviously, is also true.
Conservatives highlighting the excess of Occupy Wall Street, while trying to sound a self-fulfilling prophesy that it will alienate the middle of the country, are trying to exploit a cultural fault line that’s persisted for decades — between ordinary working-class and middle-class voters, and liberal activists who resort to outsized tactics. This time, there isn’t yet any reason to believe it’s working.