Although roughly the same proportions of Americans support the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movement, there’s one crucial difference: OWS supporters are twice as likely to be unregistered to vote. Although OWS is starting to make GOP strategists quake in their boots, this gap in voter registration could be particularly problematic for the upstart movement.
These numbers come from the Public Religion Research Institute, which finds 15% of Tea Partiers are not registered to vote, compared to 27% of OWS supporters. Both groups are supported by 23% of Americans, meaning that despite the fact that they are social counterweights, politically things might skew conservative. When it comes to the upcoming elections, this conservative tilt could be catastrophic for our country.
This ties into a common critique of the OWS movement — that it is insufficiently oriented around the reality of policy-making. PRRI blogger Amelia Thomson-Deveaux hones in on this issue, arguing that “the protesters will need to find allies among elected officials (presumably within the Democratic party) if they want to be successful in changing the existing economic and political order.”
Indeed, given how powerful the Tea Party has become on the beltway, it stands to reason that OWS could wield similar power — as long as it can get more of its supporters registered. This is especially important for the 2012 election, where new voting laws are expected to disenfranchise traditional liberal constituencies – and even a 96-year old woman. As the Occupy camps are winding down, this revelation about the gap in voters should trigger a second wave of Occupy activism — in getting out the vote.
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