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Public Opinion Snapshot: Yes, the Rich Are Different. They Have Too Much Power

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Conservatives are allergic to conversations about inequality. As far as they’re concerned, such talk is nothing but “class warfare,” stirring up Americans against those whose only crime has been to do well and create jobs. The public disagrees, however. As far as they’re concerned, the rich now have too much power and need to be reined in.

Many recent polls bear this out. In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in November, for example, 76 percent agreed and 60 percent strongly agreed that: “The current economic structure of the country is out of balance and favors a very small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country. America needs to reduce the power of major banks and corporations and demand greater accountability and transparency. The government should not provide financial aid to corporations and should not provide tax breaks to the rich.”

That’s impressively high support for such a strong statement.

the current economic structure of our society is out of balance

Most recently, the Pew Research Center found a spike in the number of Americans believing there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between rich and poor in our society. Back in 2009, 47 percent thought there were very strong or strong conflicts between rich and poor, compared to 44 percent who thought there were not such conflicts. Today, the public believes by a lopsided 66-30 that there are very strong or strong conflicts between rich and poor.

Conservatives aren’t fooling anyone. Inequality is a serious problem in the public’s view, and no amount of hysteria about class warfare is going to dissuade them.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis, go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.

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This is part of a regular column: Public Opinion Snapshot

For more from the same column, click here