Wealth inequality isn't as bad as most people think

January 26, 2016, 2:54 PM GMT+0

Inequality is worse than Americans think it should be, but it is much better than they perceive it to actually be

Over the past 50 years the United States has steadily become a less and less equal society. Today the richest 1% of Americans own 42% of all the wealth in the country. Ever since the financial crisis that began in 2008 the issue of inequality has increasingly dominated politics, especially in the Democratic party. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders increasingly poses a threat to the dominant establishment candidate Hillary Clinton, in no small part because she is seen as being closer to Wall Street.

YouGov's latest research shows that Americans perceive American wealth inequality as being far worse than it actually is. While 42% of all the wealth in America is owned by the richest 1% the average member of the public estimates that 64% of all wealth in the country is owned by the richest 1%. The average American would, ideally, like the top 1%'s share of wealth to fall to 36% - only 6% lower than it is today.

Republicans (37%) and Democrats (33%) differ little on the ideal percentage of wealth to be owned by the richest 1%, but Republicans (56%) are closer to the reality of wealth distribution in American than Democrats (70%).

Despite the small gap between reality and the ideal, let alone reality and perception, Americans tend to oppose higher federal taxation in order to make the country more equal. 41% of Americans oppose levelling through federal taxation while only 33% support it. Most Democrats (58%) support increased taxes to make a more equal society, while independents (43%) and Republicans (69%) oppose it.

Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.

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