Income inequality: What the polls tell us

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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.

 

AEI Political Report: Income Inequality 02/03/14 by American Enterprise Institute

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About the Author

 

Karlyn
Bowman
  • Karlyn Bowman compiles and analyzes American public opinion using available polling data on a variety of subjects, including the economy, taxes, the state of workers in America, environment and global warming, attitudes about homosexuality and gay marriage, NAFTA and free trade, the war in Iraq, and women's attitudes. In addition, Ms. Bowman has studied and spoken about the evolution of American politics because of key demographic and geographic changes. She has often lectured on the role of think tanks in the United States and writes a weekly column for Forbes.com.
  • Phone: 2028625910
    Email: kbowman@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Andrew Rugg
    Phone: 2028625917
    Email: andrew.rugg@aei.org

 

Jennifer K.
Marsico
  • Jennifer K. Marsico is a senior research associate at AEI, working in the Political Corner. Her research focuses on elections and election reform, as well as government continuity issues. She is a visiting fellow at the Independent Women's Forum. She is also a contributor to the AEIdeas blog, and has also written for many outside print and online publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and Roll Call. Ms. Marsico serves as assistant director of the AEI-Brookings Continuity of Government Commission, and has contributed to recent studies on Supreme Court continuity, voter registration modernization, and civic participation in the digital age.

  • Phone: 202.862.5899
    Email: jennifer.marsico@aei.org

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