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Is the 1% greedy? Study says yes

Published: Sunday, Feb. 2 2014 12:10 a.m. MST

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The clueless multimillionaire that is out of touch with middle America and uses influence to tip odds in his favor: it's an overblown stereotype, right? A survey that sampled the richest 1 percent of Americans says maybe not.

The survey, conducted by political scientists Benjamin Page, Larry Bartels and Jason Seawright, found that the nation's wealthiest are opposed to measures aimed at improving inequality, most of which the general public tend to support. About 40 percent said they support increasing the minimum wage, 13 percent support expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, and 8 percent support government jobs programs for the unemployed.

"We've been discovering more and more evidence that wealthy people have a lot of political influence and we are trying to find out how they use that influence," Page told the Daily Northwestern.

More than 100 wealthy individuals in the Chigaco area making at least $1 million a year were polled by the National Opinion Research Center. The research process was very "difficult" and "expensive," Page told the Daily Northwestern, due to the security barriers of many of the participants.

He said that the main findings of the study were that rich Americans would rather reduce deficits by cutting entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare instead of raising taxes on the rich.

In contrast, the general public was found to be in favor of government aid for education, more regulation of corporations and heavily taxing the rich to reduce the budget defecit.

When asked what were the "very important problems" facing the nation, the top response among the wealthy was the budget deficit, at 87 percent, while the rest of the population responded that jobs and the lagging economy were most pressing.

"There can be little doubt that the wealthy exert more political influence than the less affluent do. If they tend to get their way in some areas of public policy, and if they have policy preferences that differ significantly from those of most Americans, the results could be troubling for democratic policy making," wrote the researchers.

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