Is Occupy Wall Street overblown?

at 05:47 PM ET, 10/12/2011

Just how closely is the American public watching the ongoing “Occupy Wall Street” protests going on in New York City and around the country? Not very, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.


NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 11: Protesters with the "Occupy Wall Street" movement demonstrate before walking up 5th Avenue to rally in front of the residence of NewsCorp CEO Rupert Murdoch on October 11, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Just 17 percent said they were following the protests “very closely”. Independents — at 19 percent — were keeping the closest eye on the “Occupy” efforts while just 12 percent of Republicans did the same.

Only 17 percent of self-identified Democrats said they had were watching the protests closely, a somewhat surprising number given the party’s recent embrace of the motives and goals of the “OWS” crowd. (Worth noting: 51 percent of self-identified Democrats viewed the “Occupy” protest favorably in an Ipsos-Reuters survey.)

By way of comparison, 24 percent of people in the Pew poll said they followed the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs very closely while 20 percent said the same about the “current situation in Afghanistan”. (The 10-year anniversary of the U.S. commitment in the country came during the time the poll was in the field.)

The numbers on “Occupy Wall Street” compare unfavorably to the amount of interest in the tea party movement at a similar time in its birth.

In an April 2009 Pew poll, more than one in four (27 percent) said they were following the story very closely including 43 percent of Republicans.

Interestingly, both stories made up seven percent of all the news coverage during those respective time periods.

These numbers will serve provide fuel for conservative critics of the “OWS” protests who have insisted from the start that the movement is comprised of a narrow swath of the American public and does not garner any broad-scale support in the way the tea party movement has done.

Both businessman Herman Cain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich critiqued the “Occupy Wall Street” protests during Tuesday night’s debate in New Hampshire; Gingrich said that a portion of the protesters were “left-wing agitators who would be happy to show up next week on any other topic”. (He also noted that a portion were “sincere middle class people”.)

Of course, defenders of the relevance of the “OWS” protests will, rightly, note that it remains very much in its infant stages and that many big things in politics once started off quite small.

True enough. And with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden both mentioning the protests in high-profile forums last week, it’s possible that in a few weeks time these numbers could look very different.

But, today they don’t. And that fact will embolden conservatives.

 
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