In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama addressed growing inequality, noting that the idea of getting ahead by working hard and taking responsibility had “suffered some serious blows.” Do Americans agree?
In this issue of AEI’s Political Report, we examine the survey evidence on inequality. Among the findings:
• Roughly 7 in 10 say the gap between the rich and the poor in the US is getting larger.
• The issue ranks far behind the economy and jobs as a priority for the president and Congress. At the same time, however, only about a third are satisfied with the way income and wealth are distributed.
• People today are much less satisfied with Americans’ opportunities to get ahead by working hard than they were a decade ago (69 percent then versus 54 percent today).
• Americans reject the idea that it is a government responsibility to reduce the differences in income between rich and poor. In several recent polls, they are divided about whether government should do more or stay out.
• People are pessimistic that the Obama administration’s actions will increase opportunity for them.
Finally, as the Republicans finish their winter meetings and congressional retreats, the editors examine GOP fortunes. Only about a quarter of those surveyed have a positive view of the GOP. People believe the Republican Party would do a better job than the Democratic Party on handling the deficit and the economy. The Democrats lead on handling immigration, handling health care, and helping the middle class.