To conservatives such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), they’re a "growing mob." But the public feels quite differently about the Occupy Wall Street movement and the issues they’re raising.
In a new Time/Abt SRBI poll, 54 percent say they’re favorable to the movement that has been protesting policies that "favor the rich, the government’s bank bailout, and the influence of money in our political system." Just 23 percent are unfavorable, and 23 percent say they don’t know enough to have an opinion. The movement’s favorability rating is actually twice as high as that of the conservative Tea Party movement: Just 27 percent are favorable to the Tea Party, compared to 33 percent who are unfavorable and 39 percent without an opinion.
The poll also gauged the public’s level of agreement with a number of positions associated with Occupy Wall Street. In each case, the poll found overwhelming agreement among those familiar with the protests: 86 percent agreed that Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much influence in Washington; 79 percent agreed that the gap between rich and poor in the United States has grown too large; 71 percent agreed that executives of financial institutions responsible for the financial meltdown in 2008 should be prosecuted; and 68 percent agreed that the rich should pay more taxes.
Obviously, "mob" is in the eye of the beholder. Conservatives never seemed too worried when Tea Party activists were raising a ruckus, but now that protesters are daring to call out conservatives’ rich and powerful friends, it suddenly becomes a different story. If Occupy Wall Street is a mob, what does that make the public—mob sympathizers? It will be interesting to see conservatives try to wiggle out of that one.
Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis, go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.