Poll tries to unpack Occupy Oakland’s beliefs

A pair of Oakland pollsters say their firm’s survey of Occupy Oakland protesters shows a diverse movement united by a shared sense of frustration with the status quo and driving toward some improvement that’s not even clear to them yet.

“In six words, we would sum up their responses to our survey as follows: They want things to be better,” wrote David Metz and Greg Lewis of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates, a Democrat-oriented public opinion research and strategy firm.

Metz and Lewis wrote that they did their survey in the public interest, not for any third-party client.

“Our employees either live in Oakland or in neighboring East Bay cities; the Snow Park encampment is next door to the office we work out of every day; and the encampment in the Plaza was just a half mile down the street before the November 14 raid brought it to an end,” they wrote. “Our business is finding out what people think, and the Occupy Oakland movement is a subject we all wanted to know more about.”

They acknowledge they couldn’t capture a statistically representative sample of so fluid and self-defined a movement, so they sent professional interviewers out with the goal of talking to as diverse a selection of protestors as possible. The interviewers were out in Frank Ogawa Plaza on Wednesday, Nov. 9 and Saturday, Nov. 12, at various times between noon and 6 p.m., talking to campers and visitors.

“While we certainly can’t say that our results reveal the views of Occupy Oakland with statistical precision, we can say that over the course of 109 interviews, we were able to learn a lot about the Oakland movement and the opinions and attitudes of the people who identify with it,” they wrote.

Among other things, they found persistence: 64 percent of those interviewed identified themselves as “frequent” participants in Occupy Oakland events, while 21 percent said they were “occasional visitors.” About 74 percent said they were from the Bay Area, including 48 percent from Oakland, 12 percent from elsewhere in Alameda County and 14 percent from other Bay Area locales. And almost everyone said they would keep participating in the movement “indefinitely.”

The protestors were fed up with both political parties, seeing widespread corruption throughout the system, and were lukewarm about President Barack Obama. Still, there is a partisan leaning – while 43 percent view the Democratic Party unfavorably, 74 percent see the Republican Party unfavorably and 67 percent see the Tea Party movement unfavorably. Views of the president were split about evenly: 33 percent favorable, 30 percent unfavorable and 34 percent neutral.

But 70 percent said they’re registered to vote and intend to do so in the 2012 presidential election, and that subset was slightly more likely to have a favorable opinion of President Obama; those who said they would not vote were more likely to view him negatively.

Lots more, after the jump…

Only 14 percent of those surveyed expressed a favorable view of Mayor Jean Quan; 6 percent, of Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan; and 9 percent, of the Oakland Police Department.

A majority of the protesters ranked fighting for greater social justice and economic equality as their top reasons for participating in the Occupy Oakland movement.

There was no single vision for the movement’s success articulated by a majority or a significant plurality of protesters, but there were some common themes: Many said they’ll not be satisfied until there’s major economic, social and/or political change in the nation, while some saw the movement’s growth as an ends unto itself and so feel they’ve already accomplished what they set out to do.

“Some (though not most) protesters endorsed specific policy goals like closing tax loopholes for corporations and the 1 percent, ending corporate personhood, electoral reform, greater funding for education, and prison reform,” the pollsters wrote.

About 77 percent said they support civil disobedience as a tactic for advancing the movement; 69 percent supported the idea of occupying abandoned or foreclosed buildings; and only 11 percent said they support use of violence, though some said the question should’ve allowed for a distinction between violence against property and violence against people.

“Overall, we found an apolitical but distinctly left-wing tone within the Occupy Oakland movement,” the pollsters summed up. “From the Mayor to the President and everyone in-between, protesters we talked to were frustrated with their public officials and the inability of the political system to fix the issues they consider important. Almost everyone we interviewed wanted a change to the status quo of economic inequality, but there was no consensus about how the movement’s goal would be achieved, or even what its specific goals should be.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR senile columnist

    It’s Woodstock without music, “Hair!” for an aimless generation. The activists hate all kinds of unfairness. Who doesn’t?

  • Publius

    This movement is a joke and will accomplish nothing. Those politicians who have supported this movement do so for political gain. The left wants to build an argument backed by “mass” protests. There is no focus, there is no reason. They want things to get better?What kind of protest is that?

    I posit that the only lasting historical relavence this movement will have is a negative one. This will mark the point in time where we as Americans discover that our nation is plagued by the notion of entitlement. We are now entitled to “things being better”. No matter how hard you work or how much you sacrafice you are entitled to everything that anyone else has, this is the new meaning of equality and opportunity. This is Social Justice.

  • Nick

    Publius, I don’t think you understand what is meant by social justice. It does not mean handouts for all, but rather restriction on the ability of the rich and powerful to exploit and steal from those with less opportunity and access to power.

    While Occupy thus far has failed to articulate a clear set of goals or demands, this is a function of their status as a broad popular outpouring of feelings of rage and frustration at a system that has ever more clearly trodden on the notion of equality and justice for all.

    I agree that they need to get organized and move towards a set of achievable political and economic demands, but I think they have achieved their primary goal for the time being, which is that they have got the whole nation talking about economic inequality, who is to blame for driving the economy into the ground (and who has benefited), and how to reform corporate america to lessen the systemic unfairness and exploitation and prevent such a catastrophe in the future.

  • rew

    8 CEO’s of bay area hospitals are making 1 million dollars a year in salary, according to a story in the Times awhile back. This is an example of people at the top structuring financial pay-offs for themselves that are just ludicrous. These hospital CEO jobs include massive pensions, free cars, travel budgets, and golden parachutes if they get fired. These CEO’s are just ripping off the health care system, they do little or nothing at these jobs other than talk on the phone, attend make work meetings, and push papers around an office. Nobody – other than hospital CEO’s themselves- favors ridiculous compensation packages like this. We didn’t have hospital paper pushers making money like this 30 years ago, and we don’t need this now. I think these Occupy people are in the streets because of stuff like this, people have had enough of these people at the top laughing all the way to the bank while regular working people – people that are actually doing real work at thier jobs – get paid little or nothing. Income inequality is becoming a national issue because you have this cohort at the top that continue manipulate the rules so they can get more than they deserve, we have this CEO mentality going on with people running orginizations – they think they should be paid like sultans, while the rest get the shaft.

  • John W

    As ridiculous and clueless as the people involved in this movement seem to some of us, I view the “movement” as the proverbial canary in the mineshaft. Social unrest like this doesn’t “just happen.” Also, I think it’s been building below the radar since the 80’s. There’s a general sense that everything is rigged against the many by the few. To me, nothing exemplifies this more than Citizens United and the governmental corruption it enables. In the corporate world, you have one of the largest and most powerful companies in the country, Comcast/NBC Universal, controlled by the Roberts family, who own less than 1% of the stock but, through their special super-voting shares control a third of the votes. Then, we are told that the CEO’s compensation package is just the marketplace at work. That’s a pretty rigged market place. I think the Occupy movement is trying to say there’s lots of rigging going on. And there is.

  • Publius

    This foul morass has trashed public property, killed commerce and cost the taxpayers over 2 million dollars just in Oakland alone. Crime, drugs, rape, murder and disease permeate these tent cities. How can these people facilitate any real change? The only accomplishment of this group thus far has been to stoke the fires of class envy.

    To all protestors:

    Stop demonizing corperate America. Go get a job. There are jobs available. You may have to take a job that is “below” you.Get off of the government teet and do something productive. The world does not owe you a living. If our politicians are so easily bought by these corperate devils then vote them out. Stop relying on government and take responsibility for your own life. Go ahead and hate the rich, but you do not have the right to wealth. Take a chance, risk something, educate yourself. You may fail, you may succeed. Go ahead and feel angry, but channel your anger in a coherent manner and aim it at the true culprits, the politicians and government. Ignoring personal hygiene and crapping in the streets is barbaric and deserves nothing more than a billy stick or pepper spray. How can anyone take this seriously?

  • Antidote

    Publius, the rich and and corporate CEO’s are the biggest entittled group in this country. Obama gave $4 trillion to private coporations, foreign governments and banks that were failed from the Federal Reserve. We probably printed the money. How come you are so distressed about the Occupy people feeling entitled when our nation’s municipalities and state governments are failing because the Federal reserve failed to make zero interest loans to them the way they did to private banks, foreign governments and foreign banks?

    Your position is irrational. You say people are not entitled. Who entitled the people who received the $4 trillion? How come you don’t care about your own country and are willing to see millions of Americans fail so a handful of wealthy can maintain billions of dollars? How much money and power do you think the small grouping of billionaires should have? Robert Reich, Professor of economics at UC Berkeley who served under Bill Clinton wrote today that never have the rich paid such low income taxes. And there wealth, which you seem to think is entitled, comes from public subsidies, and public tax dollars. Because the wealthiest CEO’s are those in the defense sector who are able to put forth non-bid contracts for war.

    People like you are so upset about personal hygiene and people crapping. But people whose bodies and minds have been destroyed solely for the sake of profits in the military sector, that doesn’t appear to bother you at all. Yes, folks like you don’t believe in entitlement of any kind. You are more than willing to see your own country go down because we don’t educate people anymore and support our teachers and public education. You are really not loyal nor patriotic. Your position is to support the wealthy parasites who have no loyalty to country at all. Now that they have sucked the labor and profits out of America, they are ready to let the country collapse. And you support their totally unpatriotic and destructive mindset.

    You seem incapable of viewing the bigger picture. Yes, just keep hating on the demonstrators. But soont he big picture will come home and smack you in your butt, too.

  • Elwood

    What Publius said!