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Occupy Wall Street Protests Turn Stormy

Cold Weather, Arrests seem to fire up protesters. How does the American public feel about the Occupy Wall Street movement?

| BY Adriana Reyneri

Occupy Wall Street protesters faced increasingly hostile weather and police forces over the weekend as temperatures dropped to unseasonable lows and police made more arrests on curfew violation and trespassing charges.

Some officials predicted the cold weather would bring a quick end to the protests, while others expect the anti Wall Street movement to be a major factor in the upcoming presidential election. Millionaire Corner research shows that Americans appear to be evenly divided over the issue.

The protesters claim to represent the “99 percent” of the nation experiencing declining wealth and opportunity while a minority of Americans profit unfairly from an unjust economic system. An Occupy Wall Street Facebook posting from Saturday reads, “The news and the 1 percent are looking for a story about the snow and weather slowing us down and diminishing our numbers … . Let’s show them that we will not be moved. We are just getting started.”

While temperatures grow colder police activity is heating up. According to weekend news reports, 30 protesters were arrested early Sunday in Oregon, and 38, in Texas. Protesters in Nashville, TN, have defied curfew for three consecutive nights, but so far have not been arrested.  Protesters count the number of arrests at more than 1,000 since the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement on September 17 in New York City. The arrests have taken place in cities across the nation such as Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Americans appear to be divided in their support of the protesters, though they appear to share many of the same concerns voiced by the movement, according to our October survey of 843 investors from a range of wealth levels. About 34 percent of the participants agree that the protesters are making a good and valid point, while another 34 percent agree that the protesters represent “the anti-capitalist and anti-free market elements in our society.”

Americans also appears to be evenly divided about the staying power of the Occupy Wall Street movement. According to our data, about 26 percent believe the protesters will be a force in the next election, while 28 percent say the protests will be short-lived.

Millionaire investors are most likely to take a dim view of the protesters.  Close to 40 percent believe the protesters are anti capitalist and anti-free market, and nearly 30 percent say the protests will be short-lived. About 28 percent of investors with a net worth of $ 1million or more believe the protesters will be a factor in the next election.

Women are much more likely than men to be sympathetic to the protesters. More than 35 percent say the Occupy Wall Street movement is making valid points and more than 20 percent believe the protests will be a force in the next election.  Less than 29 percent of men surveyed believe the movement will have lasting political influence, while 33 percent believe the protesters are making a good point. About 39 percent define the protesters as anti-capitalist.

Attitudes vary significantly by occupation as well. Senior corporate executives are the least likely to support the protesters. Fewer than 19 percent feel they have a valid point, and more than 45 percent describe them as “anti-capitalistic.”  In contrast, business owners, who for the most part are still suffering the effects of the recession, are most sympathetic to the protesters. Forty percent say they are making a valid point, while nearly 28 percent expect them to exert political influence in the upcoming election. Retirees are more sympathetic than non-retirees.

Occupy Wall Street protesters don’t appear to enjoy majority support, but many of their ideas are popular with Americans. Their calls for taxing the very rich resonate with a wide audience. Seventy percent of investors with a net worth of $100,000 to $1 million agree that raising taxes on Americans with more than $1 million in annual income would help the nation’s economy. Half of these investors, favor raising taxes on households with more than $250,000 in income.

More than 60 percent of the survey participants support increased investment in alternative energy, a key demand of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, and more than 62 percent support creating jobs through road, bridge and other infrastructure projects.

Protesters in New York City yesterday posted an “urgent request” for blankets, dry socks, gloves, hats and Payless gift certificates for shoes, towels, plastic bins and tents. The post followed the confiscation of the group’s generators by the police.  According to the Occupy Wall Street movement, the protests are now taking plan in more than 100 U.S. cities, and more than 1,500 cities worldwide.