Few Americans think it's justified to pay top executives more than $100 million in a single year, though younger Americans are much less willing to condemn it.
2012 was the first year ever that all of the ten most highly paid CEOs in the United States earned more than $100 million in a single year. Mark Zuckerberg was the most highly paid, earning $2.27 billion last year - or over $4,300 every second. The 'poorest' of the top ten was Frank Coyne, former CEO of Verisk Analytics, who earned $100.4 million last year.
The latest research from YouGov shows that few Americans think that it is justified to pay CEOs such large amounts. Only 19% say that it is at least 'sometimes' justified, while 26% say that it is rarely justified and 41% take a harsh stance towards executive pay and say that it is 'never' justified.
There is a significant discrepancy, however, between the attitudes of the young and the elderly, with younger Americans tending to be much more tolerant of pay packages over $100 million. Only 28% of under-30s think that it is 'never' justified, compared to 58% of over-65s.
As may be expected, Americans are most hostile to bankers earning these amounts of money in a single year, and are most supportive of lottery winners getting more than $100 million in a single year. 74% are at least somewhat troubled by bankers earning this much, compared to 22% who are similarly troubled by lottery winners. Interestingly, Republicans tend to be less worried by these levels of income for every group except move stars. 35% of Democrats are troubled 'a lot' by movie stars earning over $100 million, compared to 40% of Republicans.
Americans also generally doubt the wisdom of companies paying executives so much money. Only 23% think that top executives are worth their salary and generate more income for the company than they are paid, while 44% think that top executives are often a net loss for the company financially.
Full poll results can be found here.