Who Are The Occupy Wall Street Protesters? Surprising Answers

The Occupy Wall Street movement is now a month old. The media, with their incessant need to pigeon hole, has no idea which cliche to turn to when describing the protesters.

Of course, the media misses the point of the protests, which is complicated but also as simple as saying that we want our democracy back from the corporations. We want our elected officials to start answering to their constituencies, not to the Chairman of Exxon Mobile or of Bank of America. If that single problem was solved, we would begin to see more jobs. We would begin to see less student debt. We would see single payer healthcare. I could go on.

But okay, let’s throw the media a bone. Who are the protesters? Who are the people playing bongos in their lululemon yoga pants? Before I get into that, I’d like to make a little side note. The media has made a big deal of the bongo drums, as if they somehow delegitimize the movement (and 21st century men carrying muskets and wearing powdered wigs represent a legitimate movement). When you spend 24 hours a day in the same place, you need something to do. Bongos are fun. They are an outlet for energy. They are social. Isn’t it better they hit the bongos than the cops that are hitting them?

Back to the question. Who are the protesters? The media calls them hippies or rich kids or slackers or yuppies. The protesters call themselves the 99%…the people who are in the bottom 99% income bracket in the United States. The top one percent of the country earns 35% of the wealth. The top 10% of the country earns over 70% of the wealth. The rest of us get the scraps. Presumably, the 99% would represent every demographic, including those in the upper incomes.

Hector R. Cordero-Guzman, Ph.D., School of Public Affairs, Baruch College Ph.D. Programs in Sociology and Urban Education City University of New York, examined data from the web traffic at occupywallstreet.org.

Traffic on the Occupy Wall Street site averaged about 400,000 visitors a day during the sample week (October 7th). 1619 people completed the survey.


Not surprising, nearly 2/3 of the protesters are under 35. But one in three is over 35 and one in five is over 45.

Racial/Ethnic background

81.3% of respondents considered themselves White, 1.3% Black\African American, 3.2% Asian, .4% Native American Indian, 2.9% Mixed, 7.7% Hispanic, and 3.2% considered themselves some other group.


Only 7.9% of respondents lack at least some college.

27.4% have some college (but no degree), 35% have a college degree, 8.2% have some graduate school (but no degree), and close to 21.5% have a graduate school degree.

Employment Status

70% of respondents had jobs. 50.4% worked full time. 20.4% worked part time.

Only 13.1% are unemployed.


47.5% of the sample earns less than $24,999 dollars a year and another quarter (24%) earn between $25,000 and $49,999 per year.

71.5% of the sample earns less than $50,000 per year.

15.4% of the sample earned between $50,000 and $74,999.

The remainder 13% of the sample earn over $75,000 with close to 2% earning over $150,000 per year.


27.3% of respondents considered themselves Democrats, another 2.4% said they were Republican.

Interestingly, a very large proportion of the sample, close to 70.3%, considered themselves Independents.

Cordero-Guzman concluded that the 99% looked like the 99%.

The one way they did significantly differ was in gender. 67% were male. 30.9% were female and 2% preferred another gender designation.

92.5% of the respondents either strongly or somewhat agree with the protests. Over 91.8% believe the movement is likely to grow.