Many Americans haven’t yet decided what to think about the Occupy Wall Street protests that have spread across the country, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.
Eighty-two percent of Americans have heard of the protest movement, and while 38% view it favorably, 35% are undecided. A minority -- 24% -- views the protests unfavorably.
The indecision may reflect that the movement's goals so far seem amorphous to outsiders. As the Los Angeles Times' Steve Lopez wrote Wednesday, after spending a night with the L.A. branch of protesters:
What I found was a collection of disaffected souls that included socialists and capitalists, atheists and religious zealots, youngsters and codgers. They have a lot of different targets, but most seem to be antiwar ("Drop Tuition, Not Bombs"), and they believe the middle-class and the poor are being crushed by scheming profiteers on Wall Street and in Washington.
After that, it gets a bit mushy; this isn't yet anywhere near as focused as the civil rights movement or as fiery as the antiwar protests of the '60s, and it may never come close. But it's a badly needed spark, and GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Herman Cain added more fuel to the fire by back-handing the occupiers, with Cain calling them un-American.
In the Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,113 adults, conducted October 6 to 10, Democrats and Republicans were predictably split in their opinions of the movement. While 51% of Democrats viewed the protests favorably, just 22% of Republicans did.
Another poll, by the Pew Research Center, found that relatively few Americans were following news of the protests closely, at least as of last week. Not surprisingly, interest was much higher among younger people than among those over age 65.
-- Tom Petruno
Follow me on Twitter: Twitter.com/tpetruno
Photo: Protesters march around One Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York on Wednesday. Credit: Bebeto Matthews / Associated Press