Benedictine survey: Occupy protesters unhappy with Obama
Occupy Chicago protesters are mostly young liberals who blame Wall Street and the Bush administration for the state of the nation's economy, a survey has found.
But while 139 of the demonstrators beating drums and holding signs in the city's downtown financial district overwhelmingly told Benedictine University researchers that President Barack Obama didn't contribute to the economic mess, only one-third say he's doing a good job.
"You have what appears to be a liberal sample that isn't happy with the Democratic Party right now and isn't overwhelmingly happy with Obama, his policies and his performance as president." said Phillip Hardy, an assistant political science professor at the Lisle school.
Hardy and two colleagues enlisted the help of three student research assistants to learn about who the protesters are and why they got involved with the Occupy Chicago movement. The university funded the project by the Social Science Research Consortium.
Brian Patterson said the idea for the study was inspired by media reports that portrayed the Occupy Chicago protesters as "a random bunch of people who didn't have a set goal."
"We discussed it and were like, 'Is that really true?'" said Patterson, an assistant psychology professor at Benedictine. "We wanted to know what they are like as a group."
Kelly Kandra, an assistant psychology professor, said the team had "no idea" what they were going to find on Oct. 28 when the survey was conducted.
While the researchers still are analyzing the data, preliminary results show the Occupy Chicago demonstrators have solidified their message since the movement started in September.
"I wouldn't agree with the claim they don't have a coherent message," Hardy said. "There's no question based on what we've seen that there's a theme here. And the theme is about corporate influence in American politics, corporate greed, income disparity and a lack of jobs."
Those were the top concerns survey respondents cited when answering an open-ended question about what they thought is the most important problem facing the country. By contrast, only one person cited the environment, one listed student loans and one mentioned national debt.
Almost 71 percent who took the survey are white, 70 percent are male and nearly 58 percent are between the ages of 18 and 29. While roughly 27 percent are temporarily out of work, 29 percent of the protesters have full-time jobs and another 27 percent have part-time jobs.
The demonstrators are an educated group, with about 84 percent having at least some college experience. About 47 percent are college graduates.
They are not fans of the GOP.
Roughly 42 percent of those surveyed consider themselves Democrats while nearly 34 percent say they are independents. The percentage of protesters who lean to the political right is extremely low, with less than 5 percent supporting the Republican Party. Far more -- 18 percent -- cited no specific party identification.
When asked about their political ideology, 72 percent described themselves as liberal. During elections, 69 percent tend to vote for Democratic candidates.
Still, many of them are dissatisfied with Obama.
The president's 33 percent job approval among Occupy Chicago protesters is lower than the national average, according to Hardy.
"You would think part of that might be from dissatisfaction of his handling of the economy," Hardy said. "But they appear not to blame him for the current economic crisis."
Responses to other questions in the 10-page survey show protesters are unhappy with Obama for other reasons. For example, 75 percent say they believe Obama's policies favor the wealthy.
"They blame Wall Street and Bush for state of the economy," Hardy said. "There's other things they're blaming Obama for."
Hardy said one result that surprised him was that 58 percent indicated there are times when it's justified for citizens to take violent action against their government.
Unlike other Occupy protests around the country, there have been no reports of violence at Occupy Chicago. Hardy said the demonstrators the survey team dealt with were "very cooperative and friendly people."
"They offered us free food and drinks throughout the day," he said. "Some people would object to the content of the survey, but we never felt threatened."
Some protesters did ask the researchers if they were from the FBI or Fox News.
"When we verified that we were with a university -- and not some corporation -- they were very welcoming," Patterson said.
Abdul Abufilat, one of the student research assistants, said he could relate to the protesters.
"I'm in debt with student loans," the 21-year-old Villa Park man said. "I'm not guaranteed to have a job. And I don't know what's going to happen in the next five to 10 years."
Abufilat said he could see himself joining the Occupy Chicago movement if it gets larger, more organized and remains peaceful.
A fellow Benedictine student who helped conduct the survey agrees.
Jenifer Biggs said she believes it's "absolutely necessary" for young people to get involved in the political process.
"It's important that they start paying attention now when they're young and try to make a change," the 24-year-old said, "because it is all of our futures at stake."
Results of surveyA survey of 139 Occupy Chicago protesters conducted by researchers from Benedictine University found the following views.
Would rather have:
Smaller government providing fewer services: 24.2 percent
Bigger government providing more services: 56.3 percent
Using government money to rescue banks was:
Necessary: 18.9 percent
Unnecessary: 55.7 percent
Obama's handing of health care:
Approve: 32.1 percent
Disapprove: 48.2 percent
Condition of the economy:
Good: 3.6 percent
Bad: 96.3 percent
Obama's handling of the economy:
Approve: 33.1 percent
Disapprove: 44.9 percent
Support gay marriage: 83.8 percent
Support the Tea Party: 4.5 percent
Support raising taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year: 84.1 percent