GOOD

How Will the Occupy Wall Street Protesters Vote?

The youth-led Occupy Wall Street presses on. Who will its supporters choose next November?

There is a historic generation gap when it comes to voting, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. Young voters favor Obama by a 61 to 37 percent margin, while voters over 65 favor Romney by 54 to 41 percent. Millennials, who were dubbed the "Obama generation" in 2008, are slightly less enchanted with him than they were back then.


Does Occupy Wall Street have anything to do with this waning support? Despite the fact that the protesters span several generations, OWS is undeniably a youth-led movement that's disenchanted with the president.

Judging by a few trips to Zuccotti Park this weekend, young protesters do seem to be engaged with electoral politics, although the flavor and enthusiasm varied depending on their commitment to the movement. The political leanings of "full-time occupiers" I spoke to ranged wildly, from fiscal libertarians to Green Party enthusiasts to straight-up anarchists. There was a common refrain, though: Most of them weren't excited about voting for Obama.

"If nothing else, Obama has shown us just how corrupt politics are," says Brian, a 27-year-old full-timer from North Carolina. "We need a new voting system, a different way to fund it.”

Justin, 38, says he is "actually in the Tea Party. But sadly they’ve turned into a bunch of bumbling idiots. They sold us out to Congress.” He's found a more authentic movement in downtown Manhattan. He doesn't like Obama, but would consider Ron Paul because "he wants to end the wars."

But when it came to young visitors passing through rather than setting up camp, dozens I spoke to were planning to grudgingly cast a vote to re-elect Obama.

“I’m going to vote," says Meredith, 18, who will be a first-time voter. "But it won’t be for a candidate, it’ll be against a candidate. Even if I had [been able to] vote for Obama, it would have been against McCain.”

Owen, 20, says he's not happy, but still planning to vote for Obama. “If you abstain from voting, you’re not helping anything. He hasn’t done what he said he would, but he’s better than the other candidates.”

Samantha, 18, had a similar response: “I’m going to vote for [Obama] because there is no other option. I trust him.”

Kristin, 21, says Obama definitely has her vote, “but there needs to be some drastic improvement. He means well, but he’s been too nice.”

It's possible the overall dip in Obama fervor has little to do with Occupy Wall Street's grievances, says Michael Dimock, one of the authors of new the Pew report. "While Millennials tend to be more liberal on social issues and are most trusting of the government, they're not necessarily more anti-business," Dimock says. "That's not one of the attitudes that cleaves generationally. When they think of business leaders, they may not necessarily think of the CEO of Citicorp. They might be thinking about Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg."

In Pew's first survey on Occupy Wall Street, millennials didn't favor the movement in greater numbers than all but the oldest generation—even if they were the most devoted members of it. Dimock says young people's dip in support for Obama has less to do with the message of Occupy Wall Street and more to do with the recession and broken campaign promises.

“There was a potential for something different—that’s what Obama ran on," says Heather, a 27-year-old from Western Massachusetts who supports Occupy Wall Street and voted for Obama the first time around. “A lot of the stuff he’s done is very ‘Bush’.”

Then there's the question of a third party. Gabby, a 19-year-old OWS fan, hopes for an independent candidate "the way you hope Santa is real. You look at Ralph Nader, and that didn't work." Others, like 23-year-old Ana, who isn't "a fan of electoral politics" and believes "more in grassroots movements like the 99 Percenters," would be open to the possibility. But despite these tepid responses, there was an overall sense of optimism—denial?—that has come to define this generation.

The most recent Pew numbers reflect as much. "Millennials tend to be more upbeat about a lot of things, from the role of government to racial politics," says Dimock, "even though by many objective measures, they have taken the brunt of the economic downturn. They're not quite as cynical about government's capacity to perform effectively."

Indeed, the feeling of movement, of frustration, of something seems to be staving off young people's cynicism even more. At least a third of the 38 Occupy Wall Street supporters I spoke with felt energized by the movement itself, even if they weren't tuned into some of its more wonky undercurrents.

“[The protests] show that people are finally getting frustrated enough to get politicians to change," Meredith says. "And honestly, Obama will be easier to change than any Republican.”

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Jay Santiago.

Articles
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health