Last week, a report was released examining the support for the #OWS movement. The report, “Mainstream Support for a Mainstream Movement” by Héctor R. Cordero-Guzmán Ph.D, analyzes data gathered from an anonymous survey posted October 5th on occupywallst.org, concluding that those involved in the #OWS movement are representative of the 99 percent. To see how Cordero-Guzmán’s 99 percent compares with the U.S. 100 percent, I decided to compare the results with nationally representative data from the American Community Survey (ACS) and Current Population Survey (CPS).
The survey is not perfect. The results are conditional on visiting occupywallst.org on October 5th – of the 350,346 visits to the website on the 5th, only 1,619 individuals completed the survey. However, despite this non-random design, Cordero-Guzmán is providing us with data that has been in short supply since the start of #OWS movement. There has been a lot of discussion on who is actually participating and supporting the protests, and thanks to this survey we have a first look at the make-up of the #OWS 99 percent.
According to the survey, there is great support for the movement, with little outright disapproval of #OWS (see the figure with responses to Question 3, below). By October 5th, early in the protest, a quarter of respondents had participated in the protests (see the figure for Question 4). Since then there has been growth in the movement, with demonstrations springing up in both U.S. and international cities, and greater participation.
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Who makes up the 99 percent? The figures below compare characteristics of the #OWS survey respondents with recent nationally representative data. The #OWS data reveal that the majority of respondents are male, white, in their 20s to mid-30s, but earn less than the typical American. This does not exactly look like the 99 percent – however, the results do highlight important facts about #OWS supporters. Contrary to popular belief, this movement is not only made up of students (less than 10 percent identified as full-time students). The majority of respondents are employed, the results mirroring recent employment statistics. Finally, many respondents identify as politically independent (70 percent) reinforcing #OWS as a post-political movement.
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Many have been critical of the survey’s design and results, and I at first was too. But the survey does provide preliminary numbers on a growing movement, helping us understand who makes up the #OWS support base. It would be great if the survey could be conducted again. Given that the #OWS movement is now more than a month old and has spread to many US and international cities, the results are now more likely to mirror the report’s concluding sentence: "…our data suggest that the 99% movement comes from and looks like the 99%."