2011 News Articles
Survey finds clear message: Occupy protestors unhappy with Obama, want gay marriage, more taxes for the rich

Survey finds clear message: Occupy protestors unhappy with Obama, want gay marriage, more taxes for the rich
November 21, 2011

Elliott Peppers
(630) 829-6079
epeppers@ben.edu

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Lisle, Ill.~Occupy Wall Street supporters are largely college-educated liberals who support gay marriage and higher taxes for the rich, according to a recent survey.

Faculty and student researchers at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill., located just outside of Chicago, conducted research of the Occupy Chicago movement. Researchers sought to gauge the perspective of the Occupy movement by doing a comparative analysis of respondent data to a survey conducted last year on the Tea Party movement.

In late October, the group spent the day collecting survey data from Occupy Wall Street supporters who were protesting near the Chicago Board of Trade.

Although final analysis of the data collected is incomplete, initial findings provide a more in-depth look into the movement, forming a better understanding of the backgrounds, thoughts and feelings of its supporters.

Though the group of 139 respondents identified themselves as liberals who voted most often with the Democratic Party, members were not happy with President Barack Obama's policies, particularly the handling of the economy, which they acknowledge Obama inherited. Approximately 84 percent of Occupy Chicago members polled said that Americans making more than $250,000 should pay more taxes and 75 percent said Obama's policies favor the rich.

With the presidential election less than one year away, President Obama will be challenged to translate his sympathy for Occupy protestors into reciprocal votes for him. Occupy Chicago respondents gave Obama a 33 percent job approval rate. Obama's handling of the economy and health care were major disapproval points.

The Occupy Chicago group surveyed consisted of mainly white males who espouse an expected dislike for the Republic Party and Tea Party. However, 56 percent of Occupy Chicago respondents agree with GOP critics that the auto bailout was not necessary.

One significant and somewhat surprising finding was that Occupy Wall Street supporters believe violence is sometimes necessary against the government, said Phil Hardy, a Benedictine assistant professor of Political Science and one of the survey organizers.

Though the Occupy Wall Street movement has been largely peaceful, 58 percent of Occupy Chicago survey respondents agreed that violence against the government is sometimes justified.

As more Occupy movements across the country are being evicted from their encampments, the potential for violent conflicts with government officials may be growing along with the frustrations of Occupy members and its supporters.

If protests do not remain peaceful, Hardy questioned whether Obama and other liberals and moderate Republicans would be willing to align themselves with the Occupy movement.

"If it stays non-violent and they have a reasonable message, then I would expect to see some sympathy, at least from the Democrats as we go into 2012, particularly if you see folks sympathetic and align themselves with the Occupy movement, like labor, firefighters, police officers, nurses and teachers," Hardy said.

Whether the protestors were simply expressing frustrations or whether a splinter group would appear that violently engages the government remains to be seen, Hardy said. Tea Party members were asked a similar question with 25 percent reporting that violence against the government is sometimes necessary, Hardy added.

The researchers, which consisted of faculty from Benedictine's Political Science and Psychology and Sociology departments, may pursue additional funding to conduct surveys of the Occupy movements in other cities, Hardy said.

Occupy Chicago, of which 77 percent reported being registered voters, primarily blames Wall Street, the Bush Administration and Congress for the U.S. economic crisis. Among Occupy Chicago supporters, scraping the bottom of the popularity barrel, along with the GOP and Tea Party, are banks and multinational corporations.

Conversely, the survey indicates that among Occupy members, talk show host Jon Stewart is king, followed by their support of unions.

The Tea Party movement was able to launch enough momentum nationally to affect the 2010 midterm elections in their favor. It remains to be seen if the Occupy movement will be able to do the same, Hardy said.

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Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located 25 miles west of Chicago in Lisle, Illinois. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 53 undergraduate majors, 13 graduate and four doctorate programs. Benedictine University was recently ranked as the seventh fastest-growing campus among private nonprofit master's universities by The Chronicle of Higher Education, and among the top 20 percent of America's colleges for 2011 by Forbes magazine. Benedictine University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the fourth largest in the Chicago area in 2011 and the online Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) and Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) programs are both ranked among the top 10 in the nation by TheBestColleges.org.