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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, Obama, Marijuana, and Facebook

Five questions we have recently answered here at Gallup:

1. Is the Occupy Wall Street movement a “windfall” for the Obama presidential campaign?

The Occupy Wall Street movement certainly exemplifies a generalized populist anger. There is little doubt that Obama, and other Democratic candidates, are thinking about taking advantage of it. There is a big caution on this from our recent USA Today/Gallup polling, however. That caution is based on the finding that while Americans certainly blame Wall Street for our nation’s economic problems, they blame the federal government more. In fact, when we asked Americans to choose which of these two entities is most to blame for our economic woes, the federal government won out by over a two-to-one margin.

The danger for Democratic candidates, then, is that they ignore the elephant in the backyard -- the federal government, with which they are more highly identified than are the Republicans. The data show that Republicans continue to have a potent weapon when the criticize big government. The wise course for any candidate, it would seem, is to acknowledge that both entities -- Wall Street and the government -- have major issues, and that these issues should and will be addressed by the candidate. 

2. Who has the most popular support -- the Tea Party movement or the Occupy Wall Street movement?

That’s tricky. We asked the same “support” or “oppose” question of both in the aforementioned USA Today/Gallup poll. The results show broadly similar views, although the Tea Party, with a 22% supporter, 27% opponent response in this poll, is slightly more negative than the 26% supporter, 19% opponent profile for the OWS movement. Half or more of Americans are neither supporters nor opponents of these movements. That underscores the point made by my colleague Jeff Jones in his analysis -- namely that the majority of Americans are not highly caught up in these movements that occupy so much of the news media’s time.

3. True or false: Presidential job approval ratings don’t rise between the fall of the year before an election and election year itself.  In other words, it's unlikely that Obama’s job approval ratings will be much higher next year.

That’s false. Clinton’s ratings went up over 10 percentage points between October 1995 and 1996. Reagan’s job approval ratings went up over 10 points between October 1983 and 1984. Carter’s ratings went up over 20 points between October 1979 and January 1980 (although they rapidly fell back down again). And George H.W. Bush’s job approval ratings fell more than 30 points between October 1991 and 1992.

In other words, an incumbent president's job approval ratings can, in fact, change significantly between October of the year before an election and the election year itself. Obama’s job approval ratings are hovering right around 40%. History suggests it is in theory possible that his ratings could rise 10 points between now and next year, which would put him at or around 50% -- the bottom range of where he would need to be based on history to win re-election.

4. What percent of those aged 65 years and older say marijuana should be legalized?

The answer to that question is 31%. That contrasts, of course to the overall average of 50% for all adults, and 62% among those aged 18-29 years who support legalizing pot. Perhaps some of those aged 65 and older are aging hippies who fondly remember the Flower Power days of the 1960s.

5. True or False:  Facebook users are almost entirely composed of those below age 50.

False. While Facebook use certainly skews young, 18% of those we interviewed in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll who were 65 years and older said they have a Facebook page. That compares to 35% of those 50 to 64, 58% of those 30 to 49, and a whopping 74% of those 18 to 29 we interviewed. Overall, 48% of Americans say they have a Facebook page.


Jenny Hatch said...
October 23, 2011 at 12:44 PM  

As a Tea Party organizer I am offended by the idea that we would be compared to OWS in any way, shape, or form.

Its like comparing Grasshoppers to Ants.

Jenny Hatch

Chris said...
October 25, 2011 at 1:06 PM  

Interesting stats, Quite a number of older people use Facebook, I thought it would just be for the young.

Anonymous said...
October 28, 2011 at 11:14 PM  

they're both bugs?

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