2012 Occupy Wall Street polls

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In 2012, the Politics and Electoral Reform Working Group of Occupy Wall Street conducted experimental surveys in New York City to investigate how voters behave under four different voting methods: Plurality voting, Approval voting, Score voting (0-5), and Instant-Runoff Voting (with a maximum of 3 rankings).[1][2][3] The polls were taken using custom software on iPads.[4]

Preliminary pilot study[edit | edit source]

They first polled 316 people at Occupy protest sites and events around Manhattan, in the spring of 2012, to test the software and people's reactions.[1] In this poll, voters selected a candidate under Plurality voting, and then were randomly assigned two of the other voting systems.[5]

The poll asked "If this year's elections were held today, what party's candidates would you favor?" with this list of candidates:[5]

  • Democratic Party
  • Green Party
  • Independent candidates
  • Republican Party
  • Libertarian Party
  • Socialist Party
  • A write-in option

No adjustment was made to correct for the unrepresentativeness of the voters; who were primarily OWS participants;[5] it was just to compare voting behavior under different systems.[6]

The Democratic Party won the plurality election by a small margin, with a total of 35% of the votes. The Green Party won under the other 3 methods.

Support for third parties was much higher under the cardinal systems compared to Plurality, moving the Democratic party down to 4th place:[5]

The first preferences for the IRV election were similar to the plurality election, though with a little more support for third parties:[5]

Since no one obtained a majority in the first round, the IRV election proceeded through 13 elimination rounds to find a winner, which was the Green Party.

The votes were tallied by hand, and the organizers found it much easier to tally the Approval and Score votes than the Instant-Runoff votes.[6]

Exit poll[edit | edit source]

On Election Day, November 6, 2012, they polled 507 voters inside polling places[4] in Manhattan's left-leaning 69th Assembly District. In this poll, every voter participated in all 4 voting systems.[5]

The candidates were the same as those in the real election:[1]

  • Barack Obama (Democratic Party)
  • Mitt Romney (Republican Party)
  • Jill Stein (Green Party)
  • Peta Lindsay (Socialism and Liberation Party)
  • Gary Johnson (Libertarian)
  • Virgil Goode (Constitution Party)
  • Write-in option

No adjustment was made to correct for the unrepresentativeness of the district, though polling only took place in a single district, so that the poll's plurality results could be compared with the results of the actual plurality election in that district. The plurality results were similar for both, indicating that the exit poll was reasonably accurate to the district:[1][5]


Obama easily won under all 4 voting systems, though Approval and Score showed that there was much higher support for third parties than traditional plurality elections would imply. Romney's position in the overall ranking dropped from second place to last place (ignoring write-ins) under the cardinal systems:[5]


The first preferences for the IRV election were similar to the plurality election. Obama won the IRV election without any elimination rounds necessary, so second and third preferences (which favored the Green Party) were ignored:[5]


In the IRV election, 29% bullet-voted for only one candidate, while the others selected two or three candidates (the maximum allowed):[5]

The polling group concluded that "Any of the alternative methods we tested would be better than the method we currently use for our elections."[4]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c d "Podcast 2013-05-27: Follow-up with Occupy Wall Street's TJ Frawls". The Center for Election Science. 2013-05-27. Retrieved 2018-09-23. 
  2. "Results from Occupy Wall Street voting methods study". Google Groups. 2013-03-11. Retrieved 2018-09-23. 
  3. "Press release: Occupy Wall Street Politics & Electoral Reform Working Group Releases Report on First Voting Experiment Survey Sample, Prepares for Election Day Alternative Voting Study" (PDF). July 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-07-28. Retrieved 2018-09-23. 
  4. a b c "Occupy Wall Street's TJ Frawley on how to fix the US Electoral System - Manhattan Libertarian Party". Manhattan Libertarian Party. 2013-01-09. Retrieved 2018-09-23. 
  5. a b c d e f g h i j "Make Voting Count: an Experiment in Alternative Voting Methods" (PDF). Politics and Electoral Reform Working Group. March 2013. 
  6. a b "Podcast 2012-08-20: Interview with Occupy Wall Street's TJ Frawls on Electoral System Pilot Poll". The Center for Election Science. 2012-08-20. Retrieved 2018-09-23.