Poll: More than 30 percent of Americans support Occupy protests
WASHINGTON (AP) - More than one-third of the country supports the Wall Street protests, and even more - 58 percent - say they are furious about America's politics.
The number of angry people is growing as deep reservoirs of resentment grip the country, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll.
Some 37 percent of people back the protests that have spread from New York to cities across the country and abroad, one of the first snapshots of how the public views the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. A majority of those protest supporters are Democrats, but the anger about politics in general is much more widespread, the poll indicates.
"They've got reasons to be upset, they've got reasons to protest, but they're protesting against the wrong people," Jan Jarrell, 54, a retired school custodian from Leesville, S.C., says of the New York demonstrators. "They need to go to Washington, to Congress and the White House. They're the ones coming up with all the rules."
"Occupy Wall Street" has been called the liberal counterpoint to conservative-libertarian tea party, which injected a huge dose of enthusiasm into the Republican Party and helped it win the House and make gains in the Senate last fall.
While the troubled economy is at the root of anger at both government and business leaders, there's a key difference. Tea party activists generally argue that government is the problem, and they advocate for free markets. The Wall Street protesters generally say that government can provide some solutions and the free market has run amok.
Of the Americans who support the Wall Street protests, 64 percent in the poll are Democrats, while 22 percent are independents and just 14 percent are Republicans. The protest backers are more likely to approve of President Barack Obama and more likely to disapprove of Congress than are people who don't support the demonstrations.
More generally, many more Americans - 58 percent - say they are furious about the country's politics than did in January, when 49 percent said they felt that way. What's more, nearly nine in 10 say they are frustrated with politics and nearly the same say they are disappointed, findings that suggest people are deeply resentful of the political bickering over such basic government responsibilities as passing a federal budget and raising the nation's debt limit.
This wrath spreads across political lines, with about six in 10 Democrats, Republicans and independents saying politics makes them angry.
Fewer are hopeful about politics than when the year began, 47 percent down from 60 percent. Only 17 percent of respondents say they feel proud or inspired.
Since January, Congress and the White House have engaged in repeated standoffs over federal spending and the size of government as the economy has struggled to recover from recession.
In the past month, fury over all that has spilled into New York's financial district, and groups of mostly young people have camped out in a park.
The protesters cite the economic crisis as a key reason for their unhappiness. The unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent nationally. Many homeowners owe more than their homes are worth. Foreclosures are rampant. And many young people - the key demographic of the protesters - can't find jobs or live on their own.
"They all have college educations, and some have advanced degrees, and they're unemployed?" says Alice Dunlap, 63, a retired speech language pathologist from Alexandria, Va. She supports the protests because, she says, anger lingers at those who profited while the nation's economy tanked.
"We all got ripped off by Wall Street, and we continue to be ripped off by Wall Street," she says. "You can look at my portfolio, if you like."
The poll found that most protest supporters do not blame Obama for the economic crisis. Sixty-eight percent say former President George W. Bush deserves "almost all" or "a lot but not all" of the blame. Just 15 percent say Obama deserves that much blame. Nearly six in 10 protest supporters blame Republicans in Congress for the nation's economic problems, and 21 percent blame congressional Democrats.
Six in 10 protest supporters trust Democrats more than Republicans to create jobs.
Most people who support the protests - like most people who don't - actually report good financial situations in their own households.
Still, protest supporters express more intense concern than non-supporters about unemployment at the moment and rising consumer prices in the coming year.
Norton Shores, Mich., retiree Patsy Ellerbroek, 65, is among those who have little empathy for the Wall Street protesters.
"Everybody ought to own their own business before they start complaining," Ellerbroek says.
Eight years ago, she and her husband sold "The Fun Spot," a roller rink they owned for three decades. Now she's a member of neither political party, and she gets frustrated when she sees politicians like the Republican candidates for president being disrespectful. Or Obama "flying around the county on our taxpayer dollars, politicking."
"With all the politicians, it's like, the heck with the people who put them there. We need another Mr. Smith goes to Washington," she said.
The poll was conducted Oct. 13-17, 2011, by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,000 adults and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The poll included 384 respondents who said they were supporters of the Wall Street protests. Among that group, the error margin was 6.5 points.
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