Research Impacts - Polls

Time/Abt SRBI Poll: As Economic Frustrations Grow, Protesters Gain Support

Release Date: 10/11/2011

Majority of Americans Have a Favorable Opinion of the Occupy Movement

By Seth Brohinsky, Abt SRBI

A group of protesters nationwide have been gathering on Wall Street and other cities around the country to protest policies they say favor the rich including the government's bank bailout and the influence of money in our political system. According to a new Time Magazine poll, the protesters have widespread support among many Americans.

The national poll, conducted October 9 - 10, finds that 54% of Americans have a favorable opinion of the protests versus 23% unfavorable.

  • Support is most strong among Democrats (66% favorable) and also among a majority of Independents (55% favorable).
  • Just 34% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of the protests.
Protest Movement Table

Is your opinion of these protests...
  Total Republicans Democrats Independents
Favorable 54% 34% 66% 55%
Unfavorable 23% 44% 7% 24%
Don't know enough 23% 21% 26% 21%
No answer/Don't know 1% 1% 1% *
  • Low and middle income Americans have a far more favorable opinion of the protests than upper income Americans.
    • Lower income (under $50,000) - 57% favorable opinion
    • Middle income ($50k to under $100k) - 59% favorable opinion
    • Upper income ($100k or more) - 44% favorable opinion
  • More young people (60%) have a favorable opinion the protesters than middle aged (52%) or older Americans (51%).

Widespread Support for Protesters' Positions

The protesters, upset with government policies they feel benefit the rich at the expense of most Americans; have widespread support across the country. Among those familiar with the protests, most agree with the protesters' positions...

  • Wall Street and lobbyists have too much influence in Washington - 86%
  • The gap between the rich and poor in the US is too large - 79%
  • Executives of financial institutions responsible for the financial meltdown in 2008 should be prosecuted - 71%
  • The rich should pay more in taxes - 68%

Despite extensive support, most of those familiar with the protests (56%) believe the movement will have little impact on American politics.

Trouble for the Tea Party Movement

As the protest movement continues to gain support, it appears the influence of the Tea Party is waning. Far fewer Americans have a favorable view of the Tea Party (27% favorable). While a majority of Republicans (54%) maintain a favorable view of the Tea Party, far fewer Independents (30%) and Democrats (6%) feel similarly. Most troubling for Tea Party movement may be the lack of support from young people, women, and lower income Americans.

  • Young people (18-34) - 15% favorable opinion
  • Women - 21% favorable opinion
  • Lower income - 21% favorable opinion
  • Middle income - 27% favorable opinion

Among Americans familiar with the Tea Party most are divided on the impact it has made on American politics. One third (34%) believe the Tea Party has had a positive impact, two in five (40%) say it has had a negative impact, and one quarter (25%) believe the Tea Party has had little impact on American politics.

Protest Movement vs. Tea Party Table

  Is your opinion of these protests... Is your opinion of the Tea Party movement...
Favorable 54% 27%
Unfavorable 23% 33%
Don't know enough 23% 39%
No answer/Don't know 1% 1%

Frustration with Washington Mounting

The disconnect between politicians in Washington and Americans across the country continues; three in five (60%) Americans believe the political debate in Washington and the media does not represent the concerns they discuss in their own communities. Fully, 35% say neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party represents their views.

  • However, nearly double say the Democratic Party (30%) represents their views compared to the Republican Party (17%).

Despite the disconnect, a plurality of Americans (42%) maintain that they trust Democrats, more so than Republicans (31%), to do a better job dealing with the main problems the nation faces over the next few year.

  • One in five (18%) say they wouldn't trust either party.

With Country on the Wrong Track, Obama Approval Falls

Most Americans have felt the impact of the sluggish economy; more than four in five (81%) feel the country is on the wrong track. This sentiment has made an impact on President Obama's approval rating, which is down to 44% from 48% in June 2011. More importantly, a majority (50%) of Americans now disapprove of the job Obama is doing.

Despite the dismal economy and slumping approval ratings, a few indicators suggest Americans have yet to give up on the President. A majority (50%) still believe Obama is tough enough to be President.

  • Young people (18-34) hold the most hope for Obama, 61% say he is tough enough.

An even greater percentage (59%) say Obama cares about people like them. This includes 56% of Independents and 61% of likely voters.

Finally, more believe Obama has been a better president than George W. Bush (48% v. 37%).

  • Independents favor Obama over Bush by ten percentage points - 46% versus 36%.

Many Fear for America's Future

With numerous issues facing America now and in the future, nearly three quarters (71%) of Americans see America's position in the world declining; while just 7% see it growing. Among those who believe America's position in the world is declining, a majority cite the following as having a major impact...

  • Decline in the value of the dollar - 84%
  • Big business in the US investing abroad - 67%
  • The rise of China - 64%
  • Wall Street and corporate CEO's - 63%
  • US foreign policy - 61%
  • Government programs such as welfare and unemployment benefits - 60%

Given all the factors affecting America's position in the world, 95% of Americans are at least concerned about the state of the country. One quarter (25%) are outright angry, 25% are upset, and 45% are concerned but not upset. With limited solutions going forward, Americans are divided on whether it is more important for the government to cut or increase spending. A near majority (49%) support spending cuts, while a similar percentage (44%) favor an increase in spending to stimulate the economy.

  • Interestingly, Independents are split, 46% support spending cuts and 46% favor increased government spending.
  • However, a majority of likely voters (51%) favor spending cuts, while 42% prefer increased spending.

Another proposal to help balance the federal budget deficit is instituting a tax on people with annual incomes of a million dollars or more. There is widespread support for this proposal. Three quarters (73%) of all Americans support the increased tax on people with incomes at or over one million dollars.

  • Two key segments of the population support the proposal: Independents (72%) and likely voters (71%).

Millionaire Tax Table

Would you favor or oppose raising taxes on people with annual incomes of a million dollars or more to help cut the federal deficit?
  Total Republicans Democrats Independents
Favor 73% 43% 90% 72%
Oppose 23% 43% 6% 25%
No answer/Don't know 4% 4% 3% 3%

A Glimpse Ahead to the 2012 Election

With the 2012 election a little over a year away, it appears that President Obama is vulnerable to one Republican candidate in particular. In a hypothetical matchup with Mitt Romney, Obama leads among likely voters by just 3 percentage points (46% to 43%) with 7% undecided. Romney should be encouraged as he leads Obama among Independent voters by 3 points (45% v. 42%).

In other hypothetical matchups...

  • Obama leads Rick Perry by 12 points (50% to 38%) with 7% undecided.
  • Obama leads Herman Cain by 12 points (49% to 37%) with 9% undecided.

Abt SRBI Public Affairs designed the survey and conducted all interviewing.

This Time Magazine poll was conducted by telephone October 9 - 10, 2011 among a national random sample of 1,001 Americans, ages 18 and older, throughout America The poll includes limited interviews with cell phone respondents.

The margin of error for the entire sample is approximately +/- 3 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for subgroups. Surveys are subject to other error sources as well, including sampling coverage error, recording error, and respondent error.

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