For reasons that are a little hard to understand, it's been fashionable for TV's talking heads and the dead-tree columnists to denigrate the Occupy Wall Street protests, jeering at the protesters for not having a hierarchical top-down structure like, oh, say, CNN and lacking a knowledgeable staff of lobbyists, log-rollers and influence peddlers.
Politicians of all stripes have generally run the other way, giving the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is rapidly spreading worldwide, about as much face time as they initially gave the Tea Party, which some would say is the Occupy Wall Street movement seen from a different socio-economic perspective.
There's really only one thing you can say about the Occupy Wall Street movement: it is striking a chord with consumers (i.e., voters and taxpayers).
The latest evidence is a Quinnipiac University poll that found New Yorkers back the movement by a ratio of nearly 3-to-1.
Agreeing with the protesters views are Democrats 81-11 percent and independent voters 58-30 percent, while Republicans disagree 58-35 percent, the pollsters found.
A free country
"It's a free country. Let them keep on protesting as long as they obey the law, New Yorkers say overwhelmingly," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Critics complain that no one can figure out what the protesters are protesting. But seven out of 10 New Yorkers say they understand and most agree with the anti-Wall Street views of the protesters.
Not wanting to take the Quinnipiac poll's word for it, ConsumerAffairs.com conducted a computerized sentiment analysis of about 3.5 million comments about Wall Street on Twitter, Facebook and other social media and blogs over the last year.
We found public sentiment lukewarm, at best, hovering in the 20% positive range for most of the year before plunging to zero in August, where it remains today.
Both positive and negative comments erupted in September, going from about 8,000 comments monthly to more than 50,000 as the protests got underway. Though the volume of comments exploded, the ratio of positive-to-negative remained about evenly divided, as seen on this timeline:
How does this square with protesters' claims that they represent "the 99 percent," a reference to economist Joseph Stiglitz’s study showing the richest 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent of U.S. wealth?
Keeping in mind that a zero percent approval rating represents an even, 50-50 division of opinion, it may be that some of the 99 percent still have at least some sympathy for the wealth-burdened 1 percent, although Quinnipiac's Carroll said his polling found much stronger support for the protesters.
“Critics complain that no one can figure out what the protesters are protesting,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Hamden, Connecticut-based poll. “But 7 out of 10 New Yorkers say they understand and most agree with the anti-Wall Street views of the protesters.”
Back to the world of social media for a minute. We scoured the last year looking for positive comments about Wall Street and came up with this:
While some of the comments are a little opaque, it's clear that at least a few consumers were discussing the movie "Wall Street," which they apparently liked a lot more than the industry that was its subject matter.
And what about dislikes? Here are the top 10 for the year:
Obviously, by a huge margin, many of those holding negative views blame Wall Street for crashing, destroying, ruining and crippling the economy. This is causing something of an identity crisis on the Street iself, whose denizens see themselves as being the grease that makes the economy go.
Quinnipiac surveyed 1,068 registered voters by phone Oct. 12-16. The results had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.