How Affluent Americans Feel About Income Inequality And Wealth Concentration
Income inequality and wealth concentration have grown consistently since the 1980s, but today play a growing role in American discourse. Occupy Wall Street. Mitt Romney. A millionaire tax. The Buffet rule. Returning growth in some luxury markets. Goldman Sachs resignation letters. The list goes on.
We set out to explore opinions of Affluent Americans about these trends, and added a series of relevant questions to our February online survey of 1,017 adults living in households with at least $100,000 in annual household income. In some ways, the survey is a paradoxical, self-reflective exercise for them – affluent individuals describing how they feel about their growing collective affluence, but at a time when few feel particularly affluent as individuals.
The results are clear: for affluent Americans, issues of income inequality and wealth concentration are familiar, important, and quite polarizing.
Key take-aways include…
Familiarity with the issue is widespread: when asked about the issue of gaps between the wealthy, middle class and poor, 85% of Affluents described themselves as at least somewhat familiar with the issue, and 45% are extremely or very familiar.
The issue is widely considered important as well: 75% consider the issue at least somewhat important, and 39% consider it an extremely or very important issue.
Most Affluents support higher taxes: 58% favor higher federal income tax rates on higher-income Americans. However, polarization is stark and growing: 84% of Democrats are now in favor, compared to just 29% of Republicans.
A substantial but shrinking minority support Occupy Wall Street: 39% agree with the opinions of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, down from 49% since October 2011. Among Democrats, 68% agree, compared to just 9% of Republicans.
Affluents are split on government involvement: Our December survey found that 28% want government to have a major role in the issue, and another 23% prefer a minor government role; in contrast, 41% want little or no government involvement.
Given that income inequality and wealth concentration have grown steadily for three decades, some might argue that these issues are long overdue in playing a central role in American discourse. Despite that history, these issues now clearly shape Affluent mindsets, and influence how they think about fundamental elements of life and society such as success, taxation, equality, meritocracy, and the role of government in wealth distribution.