Swing voters respond better to ‘99 percent’ than ‘Occupy Wall Street’
Can Occupy Wall Street go mainstream? Part of that will depend on how independent voters respond to the burgeoning movement. So far, it’s not “Occupy Wall Street,” but its companion slogan, “We are the 99 percent,” that most effectively captures independent support, according to preliminary findings by Celinda Lake, a leading Democratic pollster.
Lake recently conducted a handful of focus groups — comprised mostly of white, blue-collar, and middle-class voters from swing states — and found that “Occupy Wall Street was actually confusing to some people and associated more with youthful protest,” she told me. By contrast, “ ‘We are the 99 percent’ had a much more immediately political, values-oriented connection. ‘That’s me, that’s what’s wrong, the 1 percent is greedy,’ ” Lake explained. (She adds that the slogan was explained to focus groups as pitting the 99 percent against the 1 percent.)
Lake notes that she surveyed just a small sample of voters and that broad polling would be necessary for definitive answers. But she feels confident that the “99 percent” slogan would be a better way for the movement to gain broader traction. “We should be using the right language here. Occupy Wall Street has one connotation to it — it’s not connecting as politically as the Tea Party. The 99 versus 1 percent has an immediate political connection,” she says.
Such a distinction might not make a difference to the activists at the heart of the movement, who are proud of Occupy Wall Street’s grassroots origins outside the control of Beltway institutions. But the politicians and professional advocates who have since glommed onto the movement might be more inclined to take heed.