As the “Occupy Wall Street” movement swells, political players cannot help but take a position on the leaderless (and so far, agenda-less) worldwide social protests that are voicing dismay over massive economic inequality and just generally bashing big banks. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., already has referred to the group as a “mob,” and Romney has accused the protestors of engaging in “class warfare.”
Although it still is early, right now many Americans are sympathetic to the grievances of the protestors. Polling data on this nascent group, however, is mixed. According to a recent NBC poll, 53% of Americans approve of Occupy Wall Street, compared to the 25% of Americans who approve of America’s other populist movement — the Tea Party. A Gallup poll, however, found only about a quarter of the public agreed with Occupy Wall Street’s goals.
The 20-percentage-point difference can be explained by the wording of the question. In the NBC poll, the interviewers were given a description of the protests; in Gallup’s version, only “Occupy Wall Street” was mentioned. The difference is more than just a polling quirk. It suggests that people, when informed about the protests, as more likely to agree with the protesters. If the group has staying power, it might garner more public support. (Of course, if the protesters actually get more specific, they also likely will lose a lot of support.)
If Mitt Romney wins the Republican primary and begins the traditional move to the “center” during the general election, he will have a tough time explaining his deep ties to Wall Street and repudiation of a popular piece of financial reform. After all, Dodd-Frank is loathed by professional Republicans but supported by most Americans.
Obama’s biggest obstacles to re-election are a dismal economy and lack of enthusiasm among his supporters. The “occupiers” of Wall Street cannot do anything to create jobs, but they might give Democrats something to get excited about.
And Romney might find himself full of Wall Street money at exactly the wrong moment.
As of this writing, Wendy Simmons did not own a position in any of the aforementioned stocks.