Led by the Barcelona reaserch group tecnopolitca.net at the University of Cataluya, members of Movement Netlab collaborated in the design and administration of this important survey of the Occupy Network, three years after the encampements. What follows are some the prelimanary results from the survey.


According to our recent OccupySurvey2014, launched on the third anniversary of Occupy, informal and technologically mediated forms of collective action have been the crucial precedents, constituents and benefited from the movement, in the eyes of those who participated in it: Wikileaks and Anonymous were the two most frequently chosen names within a list of key antecedents of Occupy; online petitions, social network activity, and online activity while in offline events ranked high among forms of participation, while respondents overwhelmingly used social networking sites and digital media over printed press, tv or radio to inform themselves and others about the movement; finally, results indicate an increase in participation and positive reputation of social and Internet-online movements after Occupy, while there seems to be a decrease in involvement with more formal institutions, specially parties and churches-charities, with a slighter drop in the case of unions and NGOs. These are some of the first conclusions around the practices and perceptions of those who participated in Occupy, extracted from a survey launched between September 17th and October 22nd, 2014. The OccupySurvey2014 was elaborated by the research group Networks, Movements, and Technopolitics (IN3/UOC), in collaboration with partners in the US, Canada, and Spain.


The goal of the survey was to gather opinions and perceptions on Occupy three years after its rise. For that purpose, we have asked survey takers about the relation of Occupy with previous and contemporary movements, about their periods, forms and channels of participation, use of technologies, emotions at different moments, as well as their perception of the evolution of the movement, its influence on party politics and other impacts. We have worked with a sample of 522 responses, of which 52,1% declared to be male, 44,5% female, and 3,4% self-described.


Timing, forms and channels of participation


73’5% of respondents affirmed to have participated in Occupy, and the data that we present below concern only to this group, which was the focus of our interest. Concerning their timing of participation,  60,3% said they did so in October 2011, up from 43,4% the month before, and also higher than the 51,1% of November, 2011, wherefrom the percentage of participants gradually decreases up to the 24,6% that participated between January and October 2014. The most frequent form of participation was signing an online petition (79,7%), followed by demonstrating on the street (73,4%), and getting involved via online social networks (70,3%). A slightly smaller percentage (62%) participated in an assembly, and many less camped in squares (28,6%) or organized actions (28,9%). Interestingly, about half of respondents (52,6%) who participated in Occupy did so in online social networks while attending events, camping, or being involved in other offline activities. What may a priori look like less costly activities (in terms of allocation of time, cognitive or material resources, risks, etc.) tended to be preferred, while the alleged online-offline divide (sometimes deemed exclusive) seemed to recede in the face of the rise of new, multiple and multi-modal forms of participation, which included assemblies, camping, online activities and on-offline ones into the repertoire of the movement.


Among the channels for receiving and spreading information on Occupy, Social networking sites (91,4%) and digital media (including websites) (81,8%) were the most used, with word of mouth following close (77,6%). Here again, the division seems not to be between online-offline, but rather between formal, institutionalized, usually centralized, and informal, usually decentralized, channels of information gathering, production and spreading, since print media (40,9%), television (24,2%) and radio (21,6%) ranked considerably lower. In a complementary question, we asked about the online platforms used by Occupy participants, and we found that among social networking sites, Facebook was used by 90,6% participants, while Twitter was used by 48,8%. Among digital media, 55,9% of participants used OccupyWallSt.org, 55,1% other websites, 53,3% Youtube, 33,9% Ustream or Livestream, and 32,9% blogs. 25,3% used google docs or other online shared documents. More traditional communication media such as mailing lists and sms were only used by 21,7% and 19,8% of participants in the movement, respectively.  


Collective action before and after Occupy


Questions on Occupy participants´ previous and subsequent participation in collective action yielded interesting results–especially, because of the difference between the former and the latter. 50% of respondents who participated in Occupy had been previously involved with movements related to Internet and online activism, 56,1% had experience with social movements in general, and 46,6% had been involved in solidarity, activist, or alliance groups. On the other hand, 35,8% had participated in political parties, 35,8% had done so in NGOs, non-profits, or associations, 21,6% in unions, and 17,6% in churches or charities. Interestingly, while the former three forms of collective action suffered a subsequent rise in participation after Occupy, with 70.1% affirming to participate in social movements, 63,8% in movements related to the Internet and online activism, and 58,8% in solidarity, activist, or alliance groups, the percentage of those participating in more formal organizations dropped: to 23,6% in the case of political parties, to 18,6% in the case of unions, to 33,6% for NGOs, non-profits or associations, and to 12,9% for churches or charities. This shows an increase of interest for less institutionalized forms of collective action and a remarkable centrality of Internet-related and online movements.


This last point seemed to be corroborated by the percentages of choice of Wikileaks and Anonymous as earlier movements influencing Occupy, which were the highest (31% and 29,7% respectively), followed by the Arab Spring (29,4%) and the Global Movement (23,4%). In line with this, 47,5% of those who participated in Occupy associated the movement with the Open source, free software, and free culture movement, a percentage only exceeded by that of those who associate it with Occupy in the UK (51,5%) and Occupy Canada (51,2%). Foreign movements such as the Arab Spring (41,6%), Gezi Park in Turkey (34,0%) and 15M-indignados in Spain (28,6%) ranked right below.


Motives for and emotions in Occupy

When it comes to the problems that motivated respondents to participate in Occupy, economic inequality (90,8%), lack of democracy (82,9%), the economic crisis (79,7%), financial institutions bailout (78,9%) and corruption (77,4%) were the most frequently chosen. This shows the centrality of economic and democracy issues. Others, such as environmental crisis (67,9%) or immigration and racism (49,7%), although not necessarily unrelated, ranked clearly below in terms of motivations.


We also asked about participants´ emotions, and found that while 93,7% considered the early days of Occupy a relevant emotional experience, only 55,3% do so in its current form. We also found that the preeminent affects in the encampments were “positive”: hope (90,9%), empowerment (77,3%) and joy (58,5,5%). They were followed in percentage ranking by four “negative” ones: frustration (42%), outrage (32,4%), sadness (20,1%) and fear (17,5%). Nevertheless, as of today, the first, positive three had decreased sharply (to 58,9%, 45,5% and 23,4% respectively), while frustration (37,9%) has stabilized and sadness (23,9%) increased among those who participated in Occupy.


Evolution of the movement


When it comes to the evolution of the movement, 81,1% of those who participated in Occupy indicate that the movement has transformed into other events, actions, projects and processes, and 61,4% believe that Occupy is still relevant. On the other hand, 27,3% think Occupy had an impact at the beginning but disintegrated afterwards, and 7,1% said Occupy ended with the camps.


Occupy and the traditional political field


We also included a set of questions on Occupy´s impact on and association with institutional politics, as well as about participants´ ideologies. 78,9% of respondents think Occupy has had or will have an effect on political elections in the US, and 87,1% believe it influenced the NYC mayoral election of de Blasio on November 2013. When asked to associate Occupy with electoral formations, 48,4% linked it to the Green Party, 35,7% to Socialist Alternative, and 31,7% to Independent parties. Only 10,8% of respondents associated it with the Democratic Party, 10,3% with Ron Paul´s party, and 0,5% with the Republican Party. 27,8% associated Occupy to no party. When asked about their political ideology, 26,2% chose socialism, 19,6% anarchism, and 15,5% environmentalism, with lower percentages for liberalism, 9,7%, feminism, 8,8%, communism, 5%, conservatism, 0,8%, and nationalism, 0,3%. 14,1% chose “other”.


Occupy effects


The survey also included a set of questions on the effects of Occupy. A majority of those who participated in Occupy, 69,5%, believe that Occupy has changed the perception of capitalism, 62,9% think it has shifted the perception of or attention to economic justice, 59,8%, the practices of social movements, and 49,3% the ability of people to change things. On a more personal note, 53% affirmed Occupy has changed their forms of political participation, and 44,9% their way of understanding politics, while only 22,2% said it changed their vote intention. When asked about concrete things they have done after Occupy, respondents pointed out that they now sympathize with struggles in countries other than their own (54,6%), attended protests for issues that do not affect them directly (50,7%), sought out more foreign news (37,1%) and information on political ideologies different from their own (36,3%). On an economic vein, 37,1% started shopping local or at farmers´ markets, 37,9% now only purchase products from companies that are not part of the 1%, when possible, and 27,6% joined a credit union. With regard to institutional politics, 19,9% attended city council or town hall meetings, and 13% stopped voting. Only 7,2% claimed not to have engaged in any new kind of activity.

When asked about the effects of the movement on the reputation of various institutions or forms of collective action, 93% pointed out that Occupy affected negatively the reputation of financial institutions, 92,3% said the same about public institutions (Congress, police, etc.), 87% about political parties, and 72,7% about mainstream media. On the other side, Occupy affected positively the reputation of the the Internet to organize protests (93,6%), that of social movements (89,5%), and unions (60,5%).

Finally, when asked whether Occupy contributes to a social and political change, 97,1% answered positively (48,8% “yes”, 37,2% “yes, in part”, and 11,1% “yes, but only in the long term”).


Data and sample


It is important to clarify that the #OccupySurvey2014 only represents the group of people who took the survey and does not aim to represent the whole of society. It was launched online through three main channels, Facebook, Twitter and email, thereby its reach and results are also influenced by its diffusion in each of these channels. The OccupySurvey2014 was conducted through an electronic questionnaire available on a web server. A self-selecting, non-probability sampling was carried on by making an open invitation through digital means, making use of online social networks.

For each channel (Facebook, Twitter and mail-website) a link was created to access the questionnaire, which was anonymous. The time period to fill the digital questionnaires was between September 17th and October 22nd, 2014. The number of received questionnaires was 522 (348 from the questionnaire link on Facebook, 90 from the one email/website, and 88 from the one on Twitter). After filtering, the final size of the sample amounts to 522 observations.

The data gathering was performed through the Survey manage program Netquest. Along with this post we publish the microdata, the data dictionary and the questionnaire under an open license so that anyone can work with the database. The survey was answered anonymously, therefore the data file is also anonymous. You can find the data in this link


Research on network movements


The research group “Networks, Movements, and Technopolitics” at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (UOC), along with our partners in the US, Canada, and Spain, designed the survey on Occupy in its third anniversary. This survey is based on two previous ones, #Encuesta15M2013 and #Encuesta15M2014, launched on May 15th 2013 and 2014, on the 15M movement in Spain.

The survey is part of a comparative study between different network-movements, concretely, Occupy and 15M, and tries to analyze in a transdisciplinar and situated way the emergence of these movements, their common characteristics, the relations between them and their impacts.

This initiative is part of the development of the Balzan project entitled “The Cultural and Social Dimensions of the Economic Crisis 2008-2014. Financial Cultures, Human Suffering and Social Protests”, a study that aims to analyze three key aspects of the economic crisis started on 2008: financial cultures, the impacts of the crisis and austerity policies, and the emergence of new protest, network-movements, which are already changing the ways of thinking and doing politics in several countries.

(*This research is possible thanks to the second half of the Balzan Prize in Sociology 2013, awarded to Manuel Castells).