Occupy Wall Street, the protest that has spread from Lower Manhattan to as far as Rome and Hong Kong, is supported by most New Yorkers, according to a Quinnipiac University survey.
Sixty-seven percent of New York City voters said they agree with the protesters’ views, while 23 percent don’t, the school’s Polling Institute said today. Support ranged from 81 percent among registered Democrats to 58 percent among independents and 35 percent from Republicans. By 72 percent to 24 percent, voters said law-abiding demonstrators can stay as long as they want.
The protests that began on Sept. 17 have inspired thousands to take to the streets in 100 U.S. cities and on four continents worldwide, according to organizers. Participants say they represent “the 99 percent,” a reference to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s study showing the richest 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent of U.S. wealth.
“Critics complain that no one can figure out what the protesters are protesting,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Hamden, Connecticut-based institute. “But seven out of 10 New Yorkers say they understand and most agree with the anti-Wall Street views of the protesters.”
Quinnipiac surveyed 1,068 registered voters by telephone Oct. 12-16. The results had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he supports the protesters’ free-speech rights as long as they don’t violate the law. He said he’ll defer to the owner of Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Office Properties Inc., to determine how long the demonstrators can stay. Brookfield’s park rules forbid camping, lying on benches, and using tarps and tents.
A confrontation between demonstrators and New York City police was avoided last week after Brookfield postponed a cleanup of the park, at the intersection of Broadway and Liberty Street near the site of the World Trade Center.
“I’m 100 percent in favor of protecting -- 1,000 percent in favor -- of giving people rights to say things, but also we have to protect those who don’t want to say anything,” Bloomberg said today at a press briefing in Queens.
“There are places where I think it’s appropriate to express yourself and then there are other places that are appropriate to set up a tent city, and they don’t necessarily have to be one and the same,” he said. “The Constitution doesn’t protect tents, it protects speech and assembly.”
In a separate poll, almost three-quarters of New York state voters said they favor higher taxes on residents with at least $1 million in annual income, according to a Siena College Research Institute survey released today. A higher levy was backed by 83 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans.
An existing tax adds a temporary surcharge on New York’s married couples earning more than $300,000, and singles earning more than $200,000. It’s set to expire Dec. 31. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and Senate Republicans, who hold a majority, made clear they wouldn’t renew it.
The telephone survey of 800 registered voters by Loudonville, New York-based Siena, conducted Oct. 10-12, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
New York’s mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.