SEARCHES: Origin Myths - Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street searches

special thanks to Becky Uline, editorial data analyst, for pulling the stats and her analysis

Would you like tea or occupation?
Adbusters Occupy Wall Street posterAdbusters Occupy Wall Street posterThe fast-moving Occupy Wall Street has surface similarities to the Tea Party: a gathering of citizens who feel disenfranchised, who have been inspired by a media campaign (Adbusters versus Rick Santenelli of CNBC) and coming together thanks to a common frustration against an institution - and without a clear platform to guide their immediate future. Of course, the differences among the demographic makeup are much deeper (and the Tea Party is adamant in making distinctions clear), but the quick rise has prompted many comparisons.

Among them - how much attention did each movement gather in the beginning days, and who gravitated (at least online) to the movement?

Despite the speed in which the Tea Party formed, the outreach did take longer. If you compare the first six weeks when searches for the Tea Party appeared in meaningful numbers on Yahoo! (March through mid April 2009) to the first six weeks of Occupy Wall Street (Mid-August to October 2011) Occupy Wall Street attracted more interest in all but the first week.



Occupy Wall Street Searches Compared to Tea Party Searches.

  • Movements Week 1: -38% (Tea Party exceeds Occupy Wall Street)
  • Movements Week 2: +200% (Online interest in Occupy Wall Street takes off faster than Tea Party did)
  • Movements Week 3: +507%
  • Movements Week 4: +1,018%
  • Movements Week 5: +357%
  • Movements Week 6: +133%

Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party searchesOccupy Wall Street and Tea Party searches

Demographic comparison
At a very broad level, the demographic interest in both movements is parallel. The political outlook of searches is another story.

Tea Party searches (30 Days Ending April 21st, 2009)
Males 55% /Females 45%.
Major Age Brackets:
13-17 12%
25-29: 11%
30-34: 11%
35-44: 20%
45-54: 14%

Occupy Wall Street (30 Days Ending October 26th, 2011)
Males 57%/Females 43%.
Major Age Brackets:
13-17: 11%
25-29: 11%
30-34: 13%
35-44: 20%
45-54: 14%

Regional comparison
The spread is different when you look at the geographical breakdown.


Top Regions Searching on The Tea Party Movement on Yahoo!:

(30 Days Ending April 21st, 2009)

Tea Party geo-map, mid-March to April 2009Tea Party geo-map, mid-March to April 20091. Santa Barbara, Calif.
2. Dallas, Tex.
3. Washington, DC
4. Houston, Tex.
5. Atlanta, Georgia
6. New Orleans, Lousiana
7. Sacramento, Calif.
8. Los Angeles, Calif.
9. Bakersfield, Calif.
10. New York, New York



Top States Searching on The Tea Party Movement on Yahoo!:
(30 Days Ending April 21st, 2009)

1. Texas
2. Virginia
3. California
4. Louisiana
5. Georgia
6. Michigan
7. Florida
8. Tennessee
9. New York
10. Arizona



Top Regions Searching on Occupy Wall Street on Yahoo!:
(30 Days Ending October 26th, 2011)
Occupy Wall Street geo map, late September-mid October 2011Occupy Wall Street geo map, late September-mid October 2011
1. Eugene, Ore.
2. Springfield, Mass.
3. Portland, Ore.
4. Albany, New York
5. New York, New York
6. Hartford, Conn.
7. Santa Barbara, Calif.
8. Philadelphia, Penn.
9. Austin, Tex.
10. Portland, Maine



Top States Searching on Occupy Wall Street on Yahoo!:
(30 Days Ending October 26th, 2011)

1. New York
2. Oregon
3. Connecticut
4. Maine
5. Vermont
6. Colorado
7. Pennsylvania
8. Washington
9. Hawaii
10. New Mexico



Occupy Wall Street origins
The idea of Occupy Wall Street germinated amongst the editors of Canadian magazine Adbusters in July. Within weeks, the idea spread throughout North America. In the week ending August 9th, 2011, searches for "Wall Street" spiked +275%. They tailed off, then rose again steadily along with the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement in mid-September.


Occupy Wall Street search timeline 2011 on Yahoo!Occupy Wall Street search timeline 2011 on Yahoo!


The Occupy Wall Street Movement's highest search numbers have come during the two week span of October 4-18th, when it jumped nearly 2.5 times compared to the previous week. But since then, the word "occupy" has been co-opted by cities coast-to-coast, including most recently in Oakland, California (ranked 47th in the 50 most populous cities in the United States, and #8 in California).

Top Occupy Wall Street Gatherings in Search: (7 Days ending Oct. 26th)


1. New York
2. Oakland
3. Chicago
4. Boston
5. Atlanta
6. Los Angeles
7. Portland
8. Dallas
9. Cleveland
10. Seattle


International Occupy Protests: (7 Days ending Oct. 26th)

1. Rome
2. Toronto
3. Tokyo
4. London


Getting the Party started: Tea Party Protests of 2009
In 2009, the Tea Party held three protests that sparked searches, while they gained their momentum as a new presence in American politics. They saw their biggest spikes at the onset between Feb 24th and April 21st of 2009. Their second spike in search was around the time of the Taxpayer March (Aug 25th -Sept 15th, 2009).

• Feb 24 - Nationwide Tea Party Protest
• April 15 - Tax Day Protests
• Sept 13 - Taxpayer March


More recent Tea Party spikes:

• Feb 2-16, 2010 - National Tea Party Convention
• March 16-April 20, 2010 - Health Care Reform Protests
• Sept 14 - 21, 2010 - Taxpayer March on Washington
• Nov 23-30, 2010 - (second highest all-time spike, post mid-term elections)
• Aug 23-30, 2011 - beginning of Occupy Wall Street protests, in the midst of Republican debates.

Tea Party Spikes


Tea Party Spikes (excluding "Boston Tea Party")

Tea Party spikes, sans Boston Tea PartyTea Party spikes, sans Boston Tea Party


As the Tea Party protests have not been as ongoing as the Occupy Wall Street protest, the spikes have not lasted as long. They have also not been quite as big: Tea Party searches in their biggest week were just one third of the Occupy Wall Street searches in their biggest week.

Tea versus 99%
One advantage that the Occupy Wall Street is that people seemed to "get it" immediately, even as questions swirled as to what demands would be asked once Wall Street was occupied. Even the verb-object language made its objective clear, compared to "tea party," an homage to a historical event which some have argued doesn't resemble the aims of the 21st-century incarnation. In the Tea Party's beginnings, searches were posed in the form of questions, and persisted for months. With occupy, claims of being among the 99% covers, well, a mighty big spectrum.