Eager as he always is to cast Barack Obama and the Democratic party in a negative light, this morning Glen Greenwald pushed around what is claimed to be a poll of Occupy Wall Street activists. The only link I can find to the “poll” is here. This “poll” is, in short, a joke.
The only methodological note is this:
Conducted October 14-18, 2011. Based on interviews with 301 respondents. Response rate 78%.
There is not a campaign in America, Republican or Democratic, that would spend 9 cents on a poll with that description of methodology. What kind of interviews? Phone? If so, how were people identified as “Occupy Wall Street?” And for the purposes of this poll, who is “Occupy Wall Street?” Is it people who claim an affiliation with it? Is it people standing in Zuccotti Park? Is it people only in New York City, or does it also include activists at OWS actions in other cities and towns? Were interviews done in person? By whom? How were the interviewers trained? When did they conduct interviews? Why isn’t there a date on the topline results so we know when it was released? If it was just released this weekend, why did it take two weeks after the conclusion of interviews to release the results?
Those questions came to me as fast as I could type them. If I took a few more minutes I could probably come up with ten more that would generally be answered in the methodology notes of any reputable poll but are not addressed in this one.
This poll may be reputable, but based on the paucity of information provided and the obvious methodological challenges that aren’t addressed, I’m skeptical it’s good for anything other than obfuscation or media attention for the assistant professor who put it out. Besides, a sample of 301 is a joke; I’d estimate the margin of error with such a small sample, but since the person who produced the numbers doesn’t even define his population, there’s no way to determine the population size and thus the margin of error.
But even if this poll is methodologically sound, I wouldn’t want to push this around unless I wanted to undermine the idea that the protestors are the other 99%. According to the “poll,” 27% didn’t vote in 2008 (which it some cases may be because the respondent was not yet 18). Of those who did vote, 11% voted for someone other than Obama or McCain (compared to less than 2% of the electorate). 22% don’t intend to vote for Congress in 2012, and 32% intend to vote for someone other than a Democrat or Republican. A combined 34% say they most associate with the Green Party, Socialist Party or some other party besides the Democrats and Republicans, and 39% say they identify with no party. 80% say they are slightly to very liberal, yet only 60% of the entire sample said they voted for Obama; in 2008 only 22% of the electorate identified as liberal, but they voted 89% for Obama.
The respondents to this poll don’t reflect the 99% demographically, either. The poll respondents were 68% white, versus 64% in the 2010 census. The respondents were only 10% black and 10% hispanic, versus a nation that’s 16% hispanic and 13% black. Only Asians were represented in a higher percentage than their share of the national population. And if this poll is of New York City OWS activists, it’s even more out of whack since New York City is much more racially diverse than the country as a whole.
Oh, it’s also almost 60-40 men over women.
I don’t accept that, as currently described, this “poll” tells us much of anything about the Occupy Wall Street movement; it doesn’t even include a definition of “Occupy Wall Street” so we have no idea which groups opinion it’s supposed to reflect. But if it is an accurate instrument of some meaningful definition of Occupy Wall Street, it’s politically problematic, because it would mean that the caricatures of the OWS movement as a bunch of politically marginal people far outside the American mainstream would have more truth to it than most of us would like.