The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements are defining the terms of debate for the upcoming presidential election. The 2012 election could very well turn on which movement generates a more compelling narrative that encourages enthusiasm among partisans and policy appeal to independent voters. Two unresolved questions might be most meaningful in the coming months. First, will the Tea Party be as effective in 2012 as it was in 2010 in mobilizing Republicans, attracting independents, and defining the terms of debate? Two, will the Occupy movement develop an agenda that mobilizes Democrats and attracts independents, or degenerate into chaos? Nowhere will these questions be more important than in the battleground states. Among these pivotal states, Pennsylvania, with its 20 electoral votes, provides some indication of the strength and direction of both movements.
Most Pennsylvania voters have heard of both the Tea Party (73%) and Occupy (82%) movements, but the Occupy movement currently receives more support (49%) than the Tea Party (39%). It is possible that the recent emergence of the Occupy movement and its lack of clear policy goals make it more appealing than the Tea Party. The latest Franklin and Marshall College Poll in Pennsylvania shows that the Tea Party receives about the same amount of support now as it did in early 2010, but opposition to the movement has climbed from about one-third (29%) to half (48%) in the same time period as the Tea Party became increasingly identified with Republicans.
But simple proportions overstate somewhat the appeal of both movements; combining responses to questions about awareness and support for both movements produces better information about who is driving them (supporting details that define each group and also display group support by demographic and political variables can be seen in the tables that follow). READ MORE »