Centrist pollster Douglas Schoen has an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal that reports on some polling his firm did of the Occupy Wall Street protestors:
The protesters have a distinct ideology and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies. On Oct. 10 and 11, Arielle Alter Confino, a senior researcher at my polling firm, interviewed nearly 200 protesters in New York's Zuccotti Park. Our findings probably represent the first systematic random sample of Occupy Wall Street opinion.
Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn't represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda....
What binds a large majority of the protesters together—regardless of age, socioeconomic status or education—is a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas.
Sixty-five percent say that government has a moral responsibility to guarantee all citizens access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement—no matter the cost. By a large margin (77%-22%), they support raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but 58% oppose raising taxes for everybody, with only 36% in favor. And by a close margin, protesters are divided on whether the bank bailouts were necessary (49%) or unnecessary (51%).
Thus Occupy Wall Street is a group of engaged progressives who are disillusioned with the capitalist system and have a distinct activist orientation.
Now there are two ways to look at this data. The first, as many sympathizers with the movement have done, is to impugn the pollster's politics, his methods, and the ways in which he's inferring broad political generalizatiions from the data.
These points are worth considering, though looking at the precise questions asked compared to his inferences, I'm not seeing all that much conceptual stretching. Plus, Schoen's results seem to jibe pretty strongly with a smaller New York poll of 100 protestors conducted earlier this month.Furthermore, consider Nate Silver's analysis of the protests that took place over the weekend across the globe. In looking at turnout, Silver arrives at a similar -- thouugh not identical -- conclusion:
The nascent movement known as Occupy Wall Street had its largest single day of protests on Saturday. And a funny thing happened: most of the action was far from Wall Street itself....
Over all, about 38,000 protesters — more than half of the documented total — turned out in the Western Census Bureau Region, which accounts for about 23 percent of the country’s population. On a per-capita basis, the West drew about two-and-a-half times more protesters than the Northeast, four times more than the Midwest, and five times more than the South. And it wasn’t necessarily in large cities — although places like Los Angeles and Seattle had large crowds, so did the wine-and-cheese town of Santa Rosa, Calif., and the college town of Eugene, Ore. among others.....
This could be due to a number of factors. Perhaps it has something to do with race, for instance. Cities where African-Americans make up a majority of the population, like Detroit, New Orleans and Cleveland, have tended to have underwhelming numbers of protesters and poorly organized Occupy groups. (There are plenty of those cities in the South, the Northeast and even the Midwest — but not really in the western United States).
Or maybe it has something to do with technology: Much of the organizational activity for the Occupy movement has taken place online, and the West Coast is particularly tech-savvy.
I suspect that more than anything, however, it reflects the politics of the protesters. Specifically, they tend to be more liberal than they are Democratic partisans. Take liberalism, subtract the Democratic Party, and the remainder might look something like Occupy Wall Street (emphasis added).
There needs to be more data, but Schoen's results don't seem out of line with the other data points.
While most pollsters employ real people--sitting in call centers, wearing headsets--to gather data for them, Leve relies on these machines. His innovation is to get news anchors from local television affiliates in the areas he's sampling to record scripts for him. A trusted anchor's voice conveys that the call is "legitimate, authentic, civic-minded, and not a scam," Leve says, and people are less likely to hang up on the call. (In return for their anchors' services, the affiliates get to make use of Leve's findings.) A SurveyUSA poll is like an airline's automated customer-assistance system--press one if you support John McCain, press two for Barack Obama--except that you receive the call instead of placing it. With the raw results in hand, Leve will make some technical adjustments and write an analysis, which he will send to one of the more than 50 media outlets that commission his work and feature it in their print and television news stories. This sort of computerized polling is controversial--but also increasingly popular, thanks to its lightning speed and low cost. "Gallup might charge $10,000 and take four to five days," Leve boasts. "We can do that in one night, for maybe a thousand dollars."
ANOTHER UPDATE: Sam Wang has an interesting post on the incentives of pollsters and media outlets who use them -- but I think he's exaggerating the phenomenon he describes.
This paper compiles polling and election data for all black and female candidates for Governor or U.S. Senator from 1989 to 2006. These 249 observations from 133 elections show that
there was indeed a Wilder effect, but one that was specific to a particular group and political context. African Americans running for office before 1996 performed on average 2.7 percentage points worse than their polling numbers would indicate. Yet this effect subsequently disappeared. Although precision is limited because there were only 47 observations for 18 elections with black candidates in this period, these findings accord with theories of racial politics emphasizing the information environment. As racialized rhetoric about welfare and crime receded from national prominence in the mid-1990s, so did the gap between polling and performance. Even over short periods of time, the inuence of race on electoral politics can shift markedly.
Now, I really hope Hopkins is correct, for a variety of reasons.* Here's my question, however -- does evidence of a disappearing Bradley effect in state-level elections automatically imply that it has disappeared at the presidential level?**
This is a genuine question -- I really don't know. I can see valid reasons for saying that polling effects at the senatorial and gubernatorial level would translate to the presidential level. On the other hand, this is the first time an African-American has appeared this high up on their ballot; I have to wonder if the Bradley effect is most powerful the first time an African-American runs for a particular office. On the fourth hand, the Bradley effect is not the same thing as racism (I think it's pretty clear that the latter effect hasn't gone away) -- and I don't have a good answer for why the Bradley Effect would disappear at lower-level elections and not at the highest tier.
In other words, I don't know. This seems like an excellent question to throw open to comments, however.
*The most obvious thing is that the more closely final results hew to exit polls, the fewer conspiracy theories that float around after the election.
**Hopkins has data from the 2008 primary that says yes, but let's face it, Barack Obama vs. Hillary Clinton is not the same thing as Barack Obama vs. John McCain.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.