Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling released a new poll on November 16 which states that support among voters for the Occupy Wall Street movement is down to 33 percent, compared to 35 percent support last month. Opposition to OWS has dramatically increased, with 45 percent of voters currently opposed to the movement, compared to 36 percent last month. Although OWS edged the Tea Party in support by 3 points last month, this month brings a flip, with 43 percent of voters having a higher opinion of the Tea Party, and 37 percent having a higher opinion of OWS.
Occupy Wall Street Poll Interpretation According to PPP
Public Policy Polling attributes the changes in sentiment to the media shifting its focus from the cause inspiring the protests to the conflicts emerging within the protests themselves. The Public Policy Polling website cites previous survey results indicating voters overwhelmingly support tax increases for the wealthy, and results from the current survey that reveal a slightly lower approval rating for Congressional Republicans than Democrats. The partisan pollster suggests that Democrats need to revamp their image to be seen as a preferable alternative to unpopular Republicans. Although the institute’s written conclusion is meant to aid in the success of the Democratic party, questions arise as to whether the poll results themselves are biased due to being collected by a partisan organization.
OWS Poll Methodology
Survey respondents consisted of 800 registered voters contacted at random between November 10 to November 13. Respondents were contacted via automated phone interviews, which is considered less accurate than live phone interviews, but is still preferable to online polling. The Public Policy Polling press release does not state whether weighting was used, but does pre-empt accusations of partisan bias by stating that a polling expert with the New York Times has found the institute’s previous polls to be slightly more favorable to Republican candidates. The margin of error was +/-3.5 percent.
Was the Occupy Poll Biased?
Despite partisan preference, Public Policy Polling has been praised for its accurate poll results in 2008 and 2010 by many, including The Wall Street Journal and Mark Blumenthal. However, the current election cycle will prove to be a bigger challenge for pollsters to tap into, since public opinion is so divisive. While the public had a clear preference for Democrats leading up to the 2008 election, and a clear preference for Republicans leading up to the 2010 election, there appears to be no clear winners or losers at this point, leading up to the 2012 election. This will make both intentional and unintentional bias more difficult to avoid than in past election cycles.
Although it is a left-leaning institution, Public Policy Polling has, in the past, been described as having a Republican bias in its polling results — its press release said as much, and it has been observed among polling experts. It is unclear where exactly the bias exists in the current poll methodology, but it may have been related to the weighting of the sample, or the way in which questions were asked.
Unusual Bias in Polling Firms
A partisan polling firm may, in some cases, slant to the opposing side in their polling findings, in order to be seen as an unbiased source. Overcompensation for personal biases among founders and other employees may also end up pushing results too far in the opposite direction.
Interpreting the November Poll Results
Other polls seem to form a consensus that support for the Occupy Wall Street movement is waning. Despite biases that may have existed in the way this particular poll was executed, its findings are in line with most other polls in relation to OWS support, as well as approval of Republicans and Democrats.
Public Policy Polling. Occupy Wall street Favor Fading. Accessed November 21, 2011.
Public Policy Polling. Voters Moving Against Occupy Wall Street. Accessed November 21, 2011.
Wall Street Journal. Polls Foresaw Future, Which Looks Tough for Polling. Accessed November 21, 2011.