New study finds big disagreements between wealthy, middle-class America

acarlson@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 27, 2014 

A new analysis by The Washington Post's Know More finds that wealthy Americans — "whose median wealth was $7.5 million and mean income was around $1 million" — not only hold fiscally conservative beliefs, but that their beliefs about how the government should behave are, in some cases, wildly divergent from the rest of the country.

The breakdown, which comes in the form of two charts, is drawn from a 2013 study out of Northwestern University which compares the policy positions of the "general public" (here drawn from several previous studies) against wealthy respondents (who were polled anew for this study). Read the study here. This analysis reflects the tension in a contemporary piece of conventional wisdom: if fewer Americans are accruing more wealth, they they are also accruing more social, political and economic influence — which only matters if they happen to disagree with the policy positions of the majority.

In a few cases, they do. For example, 53 percent of the general public agrees that the federal government should find jobs for people who are willing and able to work, but are unable to find employment in the private sector. Eight percent of wealthy respondents agree. Forty-nine percent of the general public supports increasing with Earned Income Tax Credit; 13 percent of wealthy respondents support the increase. Seventy-eight percent of the general public believes in ensuring equal-access to college; 28 percent of wealthy respondents believe in the same.

Much of this data is at least a few years old — some of it is even taken from polling done before the Great Recession of 2008. More research is necessary. But in an environment when venture capitalist Tom Perkins can compare anti-"one percent" sentiment to Nazi Germany's persecution of Europe's Jews, it's worth wondering how big the gulf between wealthy Americans and the rest of the country may be.

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