A poll released Tuesday from the Siena College Research Institute found that while many New York State voters believe the Occupy Wall Street movement lacks a clear message, a majority of them also think the protesters should be allowed to stay in public parks around the clock.
The survey, conducted only days before police officers evacuated Zuccotti Park on Mayor Bloomberg's orders early Tuesday morning, is the latest in a series of public opinion polls finding broad tolerance for Occupy Wall Street protesters who began camping out in lower Manhattan two months ago to demonstrate against income inequality, corporate influence in government and other topics.
In mid-October, a Quinnipac University survey of New York City residents also found a sizable majority -- 72 percent of all respondents, including 52 percent of Republicans -- said that as long as the Occupy protesters obeyed the law, they should be able to stay as long as they wanted.
In the weeks since that poll was conducted, the relationship between various Occupy encampments and their local authorities has grown noticeably more troubled. Protesters have clashed with police at a number of locations, most notably at Occupy Oakland, where a clash with police left an Iraq War veteran in critical condition. Three deaths have occurred at or near Occupy sites in Oakland, Salt Lake City and Burlington, Vermont.
Yet the New York State residents in the Siena poll maintain that Occupy demonstrators should continue to be allowed to use the public space. Fifty-seven percent of respondents in the Siena poll said that Occupy Wall Street should be allowed to remain in public parks 24 hours a day, compared with 40 percent who said they should not.
At the same time, only 37 percent of people in the poll said they believe the Occupy movement has a clear message, while 58 percent said it does not. And respondents agreed by a margin of more than two to one that Occupy Wall Street does not represent the "99 percent" of Americans -- one of the protesters most popular rallying cries.
Still, Occupy Wall Street is more popular with Americans than other grassroots movements. The Occupy movement has fared better than the Tea Party, both in New York State and nationwide. Americans also have a more favorable view of Occupy Wall Street than they do of Wall Street itself. In addition, as of October 26, 43 percent of Americans said they agree with the views of the Occupy movement, compared with 27 percent who said they don't agree.
As of Tuesday morning, Zuccotti Park, which was cleaned and emptied of most of the protesters' possessions during the night, remained closed, according to The New York Times. Lawyers acting on behalf of the Occupy protesters have issued a restraining order, which will be argued at a court hearing Tuesday.