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Capturing Occupy Wall Street Movement Demands

Since the emergence of Occupy Wall Street, a great deal of attention has been focused on establishing what they want. To understand and get at this movement's demands, we asked, "If you could enact ONE policy to address America's problems today, what would it be?"
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Since the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement a great deal of attention has been focused on establishing what this movement wants. To understand and get at this movement's demands, we asked the following open-ended question of respondents at three Occupy locations:

Question: "If you could enact ONE policy to address America's problems today, what would it be?"

To date we have asked this at the Occupy locations in New York (100 respondents - October 22-23), Boston (95 respondents - October 23) and Washington, D.C. (38 respondents - October 30). The responses to this question were recorded verbatim. As these interviews are part of an ongoing project to generate data on various Occupy locations, we present a summary of the key policies articulated thus far with the caveat that these results should be viewed as preliminary and suggestive rather than conclusive and representative of the entire Occupy movement.

A Note on Classification: To best capture respondents' vocabulary we have reproduced below the words they used to identify the "ONE policy" they would enact. We have grouped the key policies under general categories. In a number of cases respondents used different words to describe a similar policy, to the extent possible we have also reproduced the different ways in which they referred to a similar policy.

I. Policies to reduce/eliminate corporate influence in politics

      • Eliminate corporate personhood / End corporate personhood / Policy to separate corporations and people / Overturn Citizens United versus Federal Election Commission (2008 Supreme Court decision) / Repeal the decision that dollars equal free speech
      • Campaign finance reform / Election finance reform / Election Change / Campaign laws / Public financing of elections / Complete reform of elections
      • Get corporate money out of elections / Get dollars out of politics / End corporate support of politicians / Money in politics

II. Policies to reform the tax structure

      • Progressive taxes / Raise taxes on the rich / More taxes above a certain income level / Tax wealthy / Tax the upper classes more / Tax the rich / Raise taxes on income above US $200k / Tax higher incomes
      • Increase taxes on corporations / Make corporations pay their fair share of taxes / Taxing financial transactions
      • Reduce taxes / Decrease taxes / Tax relief
      • Eliminate tax loopholes / End tax loopholes
      • Tax reform / Change the tax code
      • Fair taxation
      • Tax code that favors the middle class

III. Policies to create jobs

      • Jobs / Create more jobs / Program for full employment / Real jobs program / Universal jobs program / Move from unproductive job sectors / Organized discussion on jobs / Get American back to work / Putting people to work / Job plan / Obama's Job Plan.

IV. Policies related to healthcare

      • Universal healthcare / Healthcare / Healthcare policy
      • Single-payer healthcare / Single-payer
      • Nationalize healthcare
      • Affordable healthcare
      • More sustainable healthcare

V. Policies related to the environment and energy

      • Eliminate use of coal
      • Decrease dependence on oil
      • Carbon free dividend system
      • Green technology

VI. Anti-war policies

      • End wars / Stop the wars / Abolish war policy / End wars entirely / End United States' incursion in Iraq and Afghanistan
      • Stop sending soldiers / Bring half of our soldiers home by Christmas

VII. Policies to reform education

      • Education reform / Improve education / Serious overhaul of education
      • Debt forgiveness for student loans

VIII. Miscellaneous policies related to political economy

      • Jobs against outsourcing, make outsourcing illegal, make outsourcing costly, jobs staying in the US.
      • More equality / More equal distribution of wealth
      • End capitalism / Get rid of capitalism / Abolish capitalism,
      • Reinstate the Glass-Stegall Act / Re-regulate the financial system / Re-regulate the banking sector
      • Forgive loans and debts / Debt relief for individuals
      • Keynesian spending / FDR style New Deal
      • Invest heavily in public works / Public works / Build infrastructure
      • Employee's free choice act

IX. Don't Know:

      • Close to one fifth of all the respondents interviewed responded "Don't Know."

So what does the OWS Movement want? Our preliminary results suggest that the Occupy Wall Street movement has an array of political demands that are not very different from mainstream Americans. One things is for certain, there is a need for more data-driven analysis and less speculation with regard to the demands of this movement, especially as it continues to evolve.

Occupy Wall Street - Public Opinion Project (OWS-POP) is an independent initiative dedicated to generating and publicly sharing data on the Occupy Wall Street protests and protesters.

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