This truly is breaking news: Over the last 24 hours, the New York Times online story about Occupy Wall Street has changed several times. The image at right shows the Times’ main headline Tuesday afternoon. Then, here is a link to the Times story Tuesday night with a new headline: “City Reopens Park after Protesters Are Evicted.” Police were on guard. Many activists were trying to maintain the protest. By the time you read this story, the New York Occupy story may have changed again. Stay tuned this week for more news from New York City.
But, let’s stop and ask the key question:
Do Americans side with Occupy-movement values?
The movement’s values are not always clear, but they hover around ideas of equal opportunity and economic equality. In response to the Occupy protests, the Public Religion Research Institute explicitly included questions about these values in the 2011 American Values Survey. Here’s what they learned.
Overall, a slim majority of Americans (53%) believe that “one of the big problems in this country is that we don’t give everyone an equal chance in life.” Not surprisingly, a much larger majority of Democrats (70%) believe this is a big problem, while just over one-third of Republicans (38%) feel the same way. Independents (a growing block in the electorate) are divided. Half (50%) say not giving everyone an equal chance in life is a big problem, while 43% say it isn’t.
A larger majority (60%) of Americans say “society would be better off if the distribution of wealth was more equal.” Not surprisingly, affluent Americans are less likely than poor Americans to agree. And, older Americans are less likely than younger Americans to agree. There are also big differences by party affiliation. Over three quarters (78%) of Democrats believe that economic inequality is a problem, compared with about one-third (35%) of Republicans. Economic inequality, as we’ve discussed before on OurValues.org, is now at record levels.
How do you feel about these issues raised in the poll?
Is the widening gap in income and wealth a serious problem?
Is the Occupy movement making a helpful contribution on this issue? Or not?
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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.