Despite highly favorable media coverage, a new Time poll found the following:
Q11. IN THE PAST FEW DAYS, A GROUP OF PROTESTORS HAS BEEN GATHERING ON WALL STREET IN NEW YORK CITY AND SOME OTHER CITIES TO PROTEST POLICIES WHICH THEY SAY FAVOR THE RICH, THE GOVERNMENT’S BANK BAILOUT, AND THE INFLUENCE OF MONEY IN OUR POLITICAL SYSTEM. IS YOUR OPINION OF THESE PROTESTS VERY FAVORABLE, SOMEWHAT FAVORABLE, SOMEWHAT UNFAVORABLE, VERY UNFAVORABLE, OR DON’T YOU KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT THE PROTESTS TO HAVE AN OPINION?
VERY FAVORABLE 25%
SOMEWHAT FAVORABLE 29%
SOMEWHAT UNFAVORABLE 10%
VERY UNFAVORABLE 13%
DON’T KNOW ENOUGH 23%
NO ANSWER/DON’T KNOW 1%
I’m frankly amazed that the Occupation is only getting a 54% approval rating. The Tea Party movement, which hasn’t received quite so warm a reception from media outlets outside of the conservative press and Fox News, fares considerably less well:
Q8. ON ANOTHER ISSUE, IS YOUR OPINION OF THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT VERY FAVORABLE, SOMEWHAT FAVORABLE, SOMEWHAT UNFAVORABLE, VERY UNFAVORABLE, OR DON’T YOU KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT THE TEA PARTY TO HAVE AN OPINION?
VERY FAVORABLE 8%
SOMEWHAT FAVORABLE 19%
SOMEWHAT UNFAVORABLE 9%
VERY UNFAVORABLE 24%
DON’T KNOW ENOUGH 39%
NO ANSWER/DON’T KNOW 1%
The survey also finds that a large majority of respondents are alarmed by the gap between the rich and the poor, are convinced that America is in decline, and back higher taxes on high-earners. At the same time, many respondents believe that unemployment benefits are partly to blame for said decline.
These survey results are a reminder that those of us who believe that public sector reform efforts devoted to improving the quality and cost-effectiveness of public services should take precedence over protecting the interests of incumbent providers are part of a small minority that doesn’t seem to be growing. Another way of putting this is that (a) we aren’t doing our job as well as we need to, (b) we’ve underestimated the resistance to our message, (c) we need to make better use of alternative information channels, and (d) we need to move past old alliances and start thinking seriously about how to form new ones.
There is a small glimmer of hope. Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, has been uniquely forceful in advancing a message of public sector reform, and he’s done so in the face of a uniquely hostile local media environment and an impressively well-resourced opposition. And his approval rating is now in the neighborhood of 58 percent, a number that is extraordinary for such a polarizing, aggressive figure. It seems incredibly unlikely that this second honeymoon will last. But it does suggest that Christie’s willingness to affirmatively make the case for public sector reform, and to connect the cause of reform with averting crowding-out of desirable public services, has yielded some lasting impact on public opinion.