“Occupy” protesters wear their movement’s leaderless decentralization on their collective sleeve. The attitude fits with a group that claims “democracy” as its chief political end. But it also makes ascertaining their conctete political objectives far more difficult, since, in theory, there can be no established political platform.
Polling conducted at some of the Occupy tent cities offers a glimpse into the views of the protesters. But market research firm Frontier Lab decided to look a bit deeper into what drives the protesters.
Scribe sat down for an interview with Frontier Lab’s Anne Sorock to discuss the group’s findings, detailed in its report, “Short-Selling America.” The Frontier Lab report presents the most in-depth study of protesters’ motivations conducted to date.
Protesters generally fit into two groups, Sorock explained: communitarians and professionals. The former are driven by a sense of community. “While ‘social justice’ is the attribute of their presence at Occupy,” the report claims, “it was not the ends, but rather a means to an inflated sense of self and purpose in their own lives.” Most described feeling out of place in their daily lives, and finally finding a sense of community and purpose at the Occupy protests.
Professionals seek different outcomes — prestige and attention, according to the report — but with similarly self-centered motivations. “They feel validated by the fame and attention that comes with the large numbers of sustained attendees at the protests,” the report explains.
For both groups, then, protesting is an end in itself. Political change has not driven them to Zucotti Park or McPherson Square, according to Frontier, but rather more self-serving ends (whether or not they recognize it).