OWSers, Radicalism, and Education Costs

October 18, 2011

Doug Schoen, the former pollster for President Bill Clinton, has written an interesting article for the Wall Street Journal on the world view of the Occupy Wall Street protesters now sitting in Manhattans Zucotti Park. A senior researcher at his polling firm, Arielle Alter Confino, interviewed nearly 200 of the OWS occupiers on October 10th and 11th. She found that they have a distinct ideology and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies.

Schoen describes their thinking in more detail:

Our research shows clearly that the movement doesnt represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.

He adds that the OWS is bound by a a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas. Schoen goes on to express his opinion that alignment with those who hold such opinions would be electorally destructive.

That said, Repair_Man_Jack on RedState has a nice blog post discussing the skyrocketing cost of college tuition and its impact on young adults. Stories had run indicating that some of the OWSers were protesting about the burden of student loans. Given Schoens interview results this might have been a story line intended to make the protesters more sympathetic. On the other hand, a bunch of Marxists might just want their debts repudiated.

Whatever they believe the RedState article recognizes this dissatisfaction. The underlying problem is real and FRChas expressed its concern with the existence of the higher education racket. (Paul Peterson of Harvard accurately called it the Education Industrial Complex in 2008.) American education is defective at the primary and secondary levels, but higher education is also deeply in need of reform. Price competition and alternative forms of professional credentialing are needed badly. An astute politician could garner great support from young voters merely by recognizing that a problem exists.

(Stephanie Guttman also discusses the OWS/education link on October 7 in a post on NROs Corner. However, she attributes E-I-C to Michael Medved and raises the desirability of a return to vocational schools.)