Part II of my analysis from yesterday's blog, “Occupy Indianapolis"—Who are the 99%?
According to “Occupy” chants, it is 99% vs 1% -- 1% of the wealthiest in the U.S. have abused their wealth and power by exploiting the 99% for their own profit. Given how profoundly the wealth and income of the top 1% has skyrocketed since 1980, compared to the stagnancy of wages, and decline of wealth for especially the bottom 60%, it is an intuitive argument to make. However, does the public believe it is 99% against 1%? I believe most do not, if I may take interpretive liberties with a recent Gallup Poll: What Good is Wall Street?.
What we see in this poll is that the country is fairly split on whether Wall Street is helping or hurting us, with 45% saying Wall Street hurts us more than they help, and 36% helps us more than they hurt us. When you look at specific groups, like Libertarians, well over half believe Wall Street is more helpful than harmful. Even among “hard-pressed democrats,” the most anti-Wall Streeters in the poll, could only get 2/3 to say Wall Street is more harmful than helpful.
When it comes to who is actually exploiting whom, the question is far from decided in the minds of the U.S. public. While, in the minds of the protesters, it seems clear that 99% of us are being exploited by the wealthiest 1%, at most 45% of their fellow citizens believe this, while over 1/3 of the sample believe that the 1% are being exploited by the 99%, mooching off of welfare and unemployment benefits, complaining about not having jobs, instead of going out and getting one. Take Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain’s recent statement affirming that exact sentiment. While Cain may or may not represent Republicans’ perspectives about those Occupying Wall Street (and now many other cities in the U.S.), he does not seem to represent Republican sentiment about whether Wall Street is more helpful than harmful. The “Main Street Republicans” who feel Wall Street is more harmful than helpful (45%), outweigh those who think Wall Street is more helpful (36%). Cain may represent those Gallup calls “Staunch Conservatives,” 48% of whom feel Wall Street is more helpful than harmful.
It seems to me, then, that those Occupying Wall Street have some serious marketing to do, if they want to create a cultural and political shift. If 38% of the public feel that Wall Street is doing just great, then it is not just the wealthy 1% that the 99% have to convince to shape up their act. Rather, the 47% who lean towards the anti-Wall Street sentiment will have to convince that other 38%, as well as the other 15% just aren't sure. And in the process, overcome the wealth and power of that top 1% they are opposing.