On the heels of Tuesday’s early morning removal of Occupy Wall Street protestors from Zuccotti Park by New York City police, a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll shows that nearly two-thirds of New Jersey registered voters who are aware of the movement believe the protestors should be allowed to maintain their camps and demonstrations. Only 23 percent say officials should shut down the camps and arrest those who will not leave.
The poll, taken Wednesday through Saturday before the police crackdown, asked those who have heard about the protest whether the actions of police in other cities were appropriate.
Despite general support for the rights of the protestors, New Jersey voters are less certain about the movement itself. Just 34 percent say they have a favorable impression of Occupy Wall Street, while 39 percent say their impression is unfavorable, and 27 percent are not sure.
At the same time, 54 percent say that they are “part of the 99 percent” and 53 percent say Occupy Wall Street makes them “hope things will change in America.” Moreover, 65 percent say taxes need to be raised on the wealthy.
“While many New Jersey voters do not explicitly support the Occupy Wall Street movement, a majority endorses their key messages,” Prof. David Redlawsk, the poll’s director, said. “Though we asked our questions before today’s NYPD action to remove the Zuccotti Park encampment, a large majority of Garden Staters are supportive of allowing camps and demonstrations to remain in place.”
Results are from a poll of 753 registered voters. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Most New Jersey voters do not support moves in some cities to close camps and arrest protestors despite lukewarm ratings for the movement. Those who view Occupy Wall Street favorably overwhelmingly support the camps (93 percent) while those unfavorable toward the movement are evenly split, with 44 percent in favor of the camps and 44 percent supporting their removal. Even 71 percent of those not sure how they feel say the camps should be allowed.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is well-known: 91 percent of New Jersey voters have heard something about it. Even with mixed feelings about it, only 26 percent of voters who have heard something agree that “the people who are part of Occupy Wall Street just make me angry,” while just 14 percent agrees that the movement is “anti-American.” Twenty eight percent agree with the statement that “Occupy Wall Street has concerns similar to the Tea Party.”
More than half (55 percent) of those unfavorable toward Occupy Wall Street say it makes them angry, while 30 percent of those disliking it say the movement is “anti-American.” But 23 percent of those unfavorable still agree that Occupy Wall Street “makes me hope things will change in America.” Not surprisingly, those with a favorable view feel even better: 88 percent say it gives them hope for change. But even those with a neutral view are hopeful, by a 52 percent to 34 percent margin.
More than half of registered voters agree that “I am part of the 99 percent,” while 27 percent disagree and 20 percent are not sure. Among those who favor the movement, 74 percent say they are part of the “99 percent,” while 37 percent of those not favorable agree anyway. Half of those unsure about the movement call themselves part of the 99 percent.
“Those who say they are unsure whether they feel favorable or unfavorable about Occupy Wall Street seem nonetheless quite supportive of its efforts,” Redlawsk said. “Their ambivalence toward the movement should not be taken as ambivalence about its key economic message.”
Half of New Jersey voters are “very concerned” about the increasing income gap between the rich and the poor in the United States, while an additional 30 percent are “somewhat concerned.” Concern about inequality crosses over to those who say they are unfavorable toward Occupy Wall Street. Nearly all supporters (97 percent) are at least somewhat concerned about inequality, but even two-thirds of those who do not support the movement express concern.
Those unfavorable toward Occupy Wall Street do not extend their concern about inequality to supporting tax increases for the wealthy. While 65 percent of all registered voters say taxes on the wealthy should be increased, 89 percent of those favoring the Occupy Wall Street movement want the rich to pay more. But, despite expressing concern about a growing income gap, 57 percent of voters with an unfavorable impression towards the movement oppose tax increases for wealthy Americans.
Occupy Wall Street is viewed favorably by just over one-third of New Jersey voters, substantially more than the 21 percent who favor the Tea Party. One-fifth (22 percent) of those who view the Tea Party favorably also have a favorable opinion of Occupy Wall Street; similarly, 31 percent of registered voters see both groups in a negative light.
Democrats are most likely to have favorable views of the Occupy Wall Street movement (49 percent favorable vs. 26 percent unfavorable) while Republicans are far more negative (23 percent favorable, 59 percent unfavorable.) Independents are also negative by a 12 point margin: 28 percent favorable to 40 percent unfavorable.
Republicans are more likely than Democrats and independents to see Occupy Wall Street as “anti-American” (27 percent), more likely to say that the movement makes them angry (45 percent), and least likely to identify as “part of the 99 percent” (43 percent). Only 22 percent of Republicans say that Occupy Wall Street has concerns similar to the Tea Party, compared to 27 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of independents.
Tea Party supporters are even more likely to say OWS is anti-American (31 percent) and to be angered by it (50 percent), even though 27 percent of Tea Party supporters agree that Occupy Wall Street has concerns similar to theirs. Even so, a plurality of Tea Party supporters (44 percent) agrees that they are “part of the 99 percent” while 35 percent disagree. A bare majority (51 percent) supports closing down the Occupy Wall Street camps, while 42 percent support continuation of the camps.
Voters who say New Jersey is moving in the right direction view Occupy Wall Street on unfavorable terms. 64 percent of those who say New Jersey is going in the right direction because things are changing for the better have an unfavorable opinion of Occupy Wall Street. 48 percent of those who say New Jersey is at least “not getting worse” are similarly unfavorable.
Those who believe New Jersey is off on the wrong track are more likely to support the Occupy Wall Street movement: 44 percent of voters who think that the state is on the wrong track because things are not getting better favor the Occupy Wall Street movement, as do 55 percent of voters who see New Jersey changing for the worse.
Most registered voters who think conditions are getting worse say they are “part of the 99 percent” (71 percent) as do most (59 percent) who say things are simply not getting better. But, even 49 percent of those who believe things are not getting any worse say they are a “part of the 99 percent” as do 44 percent of voters who see things improving in New Jersey.
—TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM