Most Americans blame Wall Street for the nation's economic predicament — but they blame Washington more.
And in the democracy that fancies itself the capital of capitalism, more than four in 10 people describe the U.S. economic system as personally unfair to them. A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken last weekend, as the Occupy Wall Street protest movement completed its first month, found that:
•When asked whom they blame more for the poor economy, 64% of Americans name the federal government and 30% say big financial institutions.
•Only 54% say the economic system is personally fair to them; 44% say it is not.
•78% say Wall Street bears a great deal or a fair amount of blame for the economy; 87% say the same about Washington.
The poll shows that most Americans are paying attention to the protest movement. But most don't know enough to take a position. Even among those who have followed the protests closely, 43% don't know enough to say whether they support or oppose the movement's goals.
About a quarter of poll respondents describe themselves as supporters of the movement; 19% call themselves opponents.
National Journal, however, reports very different poll results:
The results appear in the latest edition of the United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll.
A new survey shows that Americans overwhelmingly support the self-styled Occupy Wall Street protests that not only have disrupted life in Lower Manhattan but also in Washington and cities and towns across the U.S. and in other nations. Some 59 percent of adults either completely agree or mostly agree with the protesters, while 31 percent mostly disagree or completely disagree; 10 percent of those surveyed didn’t know or refused to answer.
What’s more, many people are paying attention to the rallies. Almost two-thirds of respondents—65 percent—said they’ve heard “a lot” or “some” about the rallies, while 35 percent have said they’ve heard or seen “not too much” or “nothing at all” about the demonstrations.
As for the protesters, Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen writes in The Wall Street Journal:
The protesters have a distinct ideology and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies. On Oct. 10 and 11, Arielle Alter Confino, a senior researcher at my polling firm, interviewed nearly 200 protesters in New York's Zuccotti Park. Our findings probably represent the first systematic random sample of Occupy Wall Street opinion.
Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn't represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.
The vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15%) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1%).
An overwhelming majority of demonstrators supported Barack Obama in 2008. Now 51% disapprove of the president while 44% approve, and only 48% say they will vote to re-elect him in 2012, while at least a quarter won't vote.
Fewer than one in three (32%) call themselves Democrats, while roughly the same proportion (33%) say they aren't represented by any political party.
What binds a large majority of the protesters together—regardless of age, socioeconomic status or education—is a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas.