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Why Occupy Wall Street is more popular than the Tea Party: 5 theories
A new TIME poll says that 27 percent of Americans view the Tea Party favorably — while 54 percent like Occupy Wall Street. What gives?
 
Americans are largely for the Occupy Wall Street movement, according to a new poll, though critics of the results point out that rich bankers are an easy target.
Americans are largely for the Occupy Wall Street movement, according to a new poll, though critics of the results point out that rich bankers are an easy target.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Conservatives have been working hard to paint the Occupy Wall Street protesters as an unruly "mob" of dirty, "lazy hippies" and anarchists whose grievances are way outside the mainstream, says Brian Montopoli at CBS News. "The polls don't back that up." A new TIME survey found that 54 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of the Occupy Wall Street protests, while an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has 37 percent supporting the movement versus 18 percent opposing it. The Tea Party fared much worse: In the TIME poll, 27 percent viewed the Tea Party favorably, while NBC/WSJ found a 28-41 percent support deficit. Why is Occupy Wall Street twice as popular as the Tea Party?

1. Americans like real populists over "fake populists"
Occupy Wall Street is more popular because its goals are popular, says Greg Sargent in The Washington Post. In fact, "the most populist positions espoused by Occupy Wall Street" all polled above 66 percent. The Tea Partiers, meanwhile, always "talked a big game about ending corporate welfare and the corrupt Big Government + Big Business alliance," but never delivered, says Rod Dreher in The American Conservative. Sadly, the movement ended up being "just a bloc of conventional conservatives in anti-authoritarian drag," says Scott Galupo in U.S. News. Lower taxes? Gutting regulation? "What did Wall Street and corporate America ever have to fear from the Tea Party?"

2. "Rich bankers" are an easy target
The Tea Party always had that "strong anti-Obama vibe," says Jon Bershad in Mediaite, while Occupy Wall Street has "the less political bogeyman of 'rich bankers'" to go after. "Considering how amorphous the Occupy Wall Street movement is, I think one has to conclude that it's the name and the target that people agree with," says Heather (Digby) Parton in Hullabaloo.

3. The Tea Party has actually had to govern
To some extent, the Tea Party has been a victim of its own success, says The Washington Post's Sargent. It shaped the 2010 elections, and even "had a seat at the governing table during the debt ceiling and government shutdown debacles, which clearly took their toll on the Tea Party's image." It's worth noting that the Tea Party's favorability numbers haven't moved much since April 2010, even as its political success stripped it of "its rosy glow," says Glynnis MacNichol in Business Insider. Whether Occupy Wall Street "will see the same success — or is even courting it — remains to be seen."

4. The whole poll is "flawed"
"Given the biased way the questions were phrased in the TIME poll," the results are no surprise, says Philip Klein in The Washington Examiner. Before asking how respondents view Occupy Wall Street,  the editors lay out its goals "in as sympathetic a way as possible" — opposing policies that "favor the rich," the bank bailouts, and money in politics — while providing no lead-in to the Tea Party question. Hell, "even most conservatives and libertarians opposed the Wall St. bailout and the type of crony capitalism that comes with mixing money and politics."

5. People don't take Occupy Wall Street seriously
"For Tea Party supporters looking for any kind of silver lining," says Nando Di Fino in Mediaite, the TIME pollsters found that a majority of Americans don't have much faith that Occupy Wall Street will ever be much more than "protests and tent-pitching." While 54 percent of respondents may have a favorable opinion of the burgeoning movement, 56 percent say they think it will have no real impact on how America works. "Sadly, they're probably right," says Kevin Drum in Mother Jones.

 

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