A veteran Democratic political operative says the Obama administration’s decision to embrace the Occupy Wall Street protests “may cost them the 2012 election.”
Douglas Schoen, who served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, wrote in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal that Obama and his allies in Congress are making a “critical mistake” by affiliating themselves with the far-left protesters.
“The Occupy Wall Street movement reflects values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people,” Schoen wrote. He argued that independent swing voters are particularly likely to be turned off by the protesters’ radicalism.
Schoen’s polling indicates that the “occupiers” in lower Manhattan have little in common with the vast majority of Americans. “Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn’t represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse,” he writes. “Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence.”
Specifically, Schoen’s polling found that 31 percent of the protesters based in Zuccotti Park “would support violence to advance their agenda,” while nearly all of them support civil disobedience. More than half have participated in a political movement before.
The majority of the protesters have jobs, while only 15 percent are unemployed. Thirty-two percent identify themselves as Democrats, and 48 percent say they will work to re-elect President Obama in 2012. Thirty-three percent say they aren’t affiliated with any political party.
What really unites the protesters, writes Schoen, is their “deep commitment to left-wing policies” including “opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth.” They also support “intense regulation of the private sector” and “protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas.” Sixty-five percent believe that that the government has the duty to provide Americans with a secure retirement, health care and a college education “no matter what the cost.”
Schoen notes that these numbers are wildly out of sync with the rest of the country. A plurality of Americans, 41 percent, identifies as conservative, and 36 percent identify as moderate. Only 21 percent of Americans consider themselves to be liberals, and Schoen believes playing to that base at the expense of independent voters will cost the Democrats dearly in 2012.
“Put simply, Democrats need to say they are with voters in the middle who want cooperation, conciliation and lower taxes,” Schoen writes. “And they should work particularly hard to contrast their rhetoric with the extremes advocated by the Occupy Wall Street crowd.”