Despite its month-long conspicuous presence at the center of America’s financial hub, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement has been having trouble attracting attention. In its early weeks, supporters had complained that the movement was being deliberately ignored by the media, and although media coverage has since grown, many boosters still feel that it has still received short shrift. Yet the problem may not be with the media: a new Pew poll on the movement reveals the true problem — Americans just don’t care. From the Washington Post:
Just 17 percent said they were following the protests “very closely”. Independents — at 19 percent — were keeping the closest eye on the “Occupy” efforts while just 12 percent of Republicans did the same. Only 17 percent of self-identified Democrats said they had were watching the protests closely, a somewhat surprising number given the party’s recent embrace of the motives and goals of the “OWS” crowd. (Worth noting: 51 percent of self-identified Democrats viewed the “Occupy” protest favorably in an Ipsos-Reuters survey.)By way of comparison, 24 percent of people in the Pew poll said they followed the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs very closely while 20 percent said the same about the “current situation in Afghanistan”. (The 10-year anniversary of the U.S. commitment in the country came during the time the poll was in the field.)The numbers on “Occupy Wall Street” compare unfavorably to the amount of interest in the tea party movement at a similar time in its birth.
This is bad news for the protestors, but it’s not particularly surprising. At first glance, OWS and the Tea Party seem to share many similarities: both are loud populist movements precipitated by the recession, and both share an intense anger at established politicians and Wall Street for leading us into this mess, albeit with some differences on the diagnosis.Yet in many other ways, these movements could not be more different. The Tea Party movement had its share of professional malcontents but on the whole it was a movement of people and kinds of people who had never joined protests before: Rotarians and soccer moms don’t usually demonstrate.Occupy Wall Street, by contrast, looks more like the usual suspects, the kind of people who have been demonstrating for various causes for the last fifty years. Change the signs and to many people these demonstrations could be anti-Iraq war and anti-Bush demonstrations, or any of the other leftie causes going back many years.From a news point of view this is dog bites man: the usual people are doing the usual things. They are doing it in an unusual place — and over time they may be doing it in unusual numbers. But leftie protests that go nowhere are part of the background noise of modern American life. Drums and granola in the park is not news. Until OWS breaks that mold, expect public interest to remain tepid.