Growing Economy Important To Far Greater Numbers Of Americans Than Reducing The Wealth Gap

June 07, 2012, 4:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 6/2/2012) Reducing the wealth gap between the rich and poor is deemed an important Federal government policy goal by just over half of all Americans (56%), including 52% of those with household incomes above $100,000 per year and 62% of those with incomes under $40,000, in the most recent Economist/YouGov poll (Week of June 2, 2012).

Higher on the pecking order of importance than increasing equality in wealth is a Federal initiative to increase equality of opportunity. Overall, 70% rate as extremely or very important Federal policies that attempt to increase the equality of opportunity for people to get ahead if they want to. Here there is no significant difference between the views of those with incomes above $100,000 (70% rate equality of opportunity important) and those with incomes under $40,000 (72%).

Highest in importance is Federal policies to grow and expand the economy. Overall, 82% rate that important, including 66% who rate growing the economy as extremely important policy. That’s something huge majorities among those in every income and education group rate, of all parties and ideologies, from sea to shining sea rate extremely important, and why not? A growing economy may sound like an environment where anyone who is smart enough and works hard enough can get theirs, and that's something everyone seems able to get behind.

Income inequality is historically high right now, but probably no higher than it was from almost 100 years ago, in the late 1910s, through the onset of WWII. Income inequality plummeted during WWII and only recently recovered to "Roaring '20s" levels. No one alive today has seen such inequality in incomes as we see today, but such inequality has been seen before in the US.

Respondent in this poll are correct, then, when 66% estimate that the difference in incomes between rich people and poor people is larger than it was 30 years ago. The two-in-three who say the gap is larger generally feel that is a bad thing (77%). The one-in-three who say the gap is the same or smaller than it was 30 years ago generally also say they haven’t really thought about whether that persistent or declining income gap is a good or bad thing for the country.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here

Photo source: Press Association