Majority remains noncommittal toward the movement and uncertain about its goals
PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans have grown a bit more critical over the past month of the methods used by Occupy Wall Street protesters; however, their overall view of the movement and position on its goals have not changed. The majority of Americans, 53%, say they neither support nor oppose the movement, while supporters continue to slightly outnumber opponents.
The Nov. 19-20 USA Today/Gallup poll finds Americans' views about the goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement similar to what they were in October, with 25% approving and 16% disapproving.
At the same time, Americans have grown slightly more critical of the protests themselves, with more now disapproving than approving of the way the protests are being conducted, 31% vs. 20%. In October, the balance of opinion on this question tilted slightly positive.
Perhaps the bigger finding with both questions is that large segments of Americans -- similar to what Gallup found in October -- say they don't know enough about either aspect of the movement to have an opinion about it. Six in 10 Americans, 59%, don't have an opinion about its goals, and nearly as many, 49%, have no opinion about the way the protests are being conducted.
One reason for this may be that relatively few Americans are tuning in to the protests. When asked how closely they are following news about the protests, 20% say "very closely" and 35% "somewhat closely," while nearly half (45%) are following it less closely.
The combined 55% following it closely is below average for major national news stories, according to Gallup's rating of more than 200 stories since 1991.
Roughly 6 in 10 residents in the East (64%) and West (60%) are following news of the protests very or somewhat closely, compared with 52% in the South and 46% in the Midwest.
Democrats Show Muted Support
Consistent with the left-leaning political slant of Occupy Wall Street and President Obama's expressed sympathy for it, Democrats are significantly more likely than Republicans to call themselves supporters of the movement and to say they approve of its goals. Still, even large segments of Democrats have no opinion on these questions.
The partisan divide is a bit different with respect to perceptions of how the protests are being conducted. Although relatively few Democrats approve of the movement on this dimension, not much different from Republicans, a striking 55% of Republicans say they disapprove, much greater than the 20% of Democrats. This is the only aspect of the poll's Occupy Wall Street ratings on which the majority of any party group takes a position.
Americans' views about the Occupy Wall Street movement have changed little since mid-October, with most Americans taking a neutral stance toward it. This may be partly because barely half are following news of the protests closely and, accordingly, half or more say they don't know enough about the movement to have an opinion about its goals or methods.
Within the Democratic Party, Occupy Wall Street supporters far outnumber opponents, but close to half of Democrats say they are neither. Republicans are more likely to be opponents than supporters, but even though a solid majority of Republicans disapprove of the way the protests are being conducted, more than half take a neutral stance toward the movement generally.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 19-20, 2011, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 996 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
The questions reported here were asked of a random half-sample of respondents for two nights on the Gallup Daily tracking survey.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.