Tea Party and Occupy paths to invisibility

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll asked 1,000 adults about their thoughts on the usual political stuff, including Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.  (Most coverage focused on President Obama’s current 6 point advantage over Governor Romney.)

But the poll also asked about the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.  Each movement garnered less support than either major presidential candidate, or either the Democratic or Republican Party.  Adding the totals for “very positive” and “somewhat positive” for each, we get:

Barack Obama          48%

Mitt Romney             33%

Democratic Party     39%

Republican Party      33%

Tea Party                  27%

Occupy Wall Street  25%

The survey reports a margin of error of 3.1 percent, which would be somewhat higher for the Tea Party and Occupy questions, as half the sample was asked about each movement.  We shouldn’t make anything, then, of the tiny difference in approval for the two movements.  But that each movement polls less support than the parties or their candidates is an interesting development.

Also interesting: 51 percent of the respondents agreed that Occupy had pretty much run its course and was no longer very important, in contrast with 43 percent of the respondents saying the same about the Tea Party.  (David Weigel noticed this as well.)

In both cases, most people seem to think that the movements have peaked and passed.  Note the different routes they took toward seeming irrelevance:

The Tea Party marched into the Republican primaries at the presidential level and below, and is having difficulty getting much out of that effort.  The presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, is surely the next to last choice of most Tea Partiers.

Occupy, working hard to avoid being coopted by institutional politics, has had a great deal of difficulty in maintaining a national profile–particularly after the Occupations ended–even though a great deal of activity is continuing on a variety of issues, including foreclosure, education, and taxation.

Two movements, two strategies, so far, pretty similar outcomes.   Is this inevitable?

Of course, this may change if the Tea Party succeeds in knocking off Richard Lugar and Orrin Hatch, and/or if Occupy is able to stage large events on May 1 and afterward.

Or not?

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About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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3 Responses to Tea Party and Occupy paths to invisibility

  1. Very interesting statistics…

    unfortunately, polling numbers can’t tell you anything about what the future holds.

    And since social movements (revolutions) have a natural ebb and flow…you have no idea whether the lull in any given year is an indication that this particular movement has run its course – or that the quiet you experience is masking a greater event.

    Like riding a tsunami wave in the middle of an ocean – you would never know that great change is under your feet- except of course when it reaches land and the wave makes itself know to the world.

    But by then for most, it is too late.

    J.R. Werbics is a Canadian writer and philosopher.

    • I agree completely, Jason, about polls providing only a snapshot of a moment. Public opinion, particularly on things like social movements, is very volatile.
      I’m less convinced that there’s some natural life cycle. Activists make decisions, and what they decide might matter.

  2. Pingback: The Tea Party versus the Republican Party | Politics Outdoors

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