The FINANCIAL -- 65% believe the gap
between the rich and everyone else has increased in the last 10 years.
This view is shared by majorities across nearly all groups in the
public, including 68% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans, according to the new national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY.
Yet there is a sharp disagreement over whether this gap needs government attention. Among Democrats, 90% say the government should do “a lot” or “some” to reduce the gap between the rich and everyone else, including 62% who say it should do a lot. But only half as many Republicans (45%) think the government should do something about this gap, with just 23% saying it should do a lot. Instead, nearly half of Republicans say the government should do “not much” (15%) or “nothing at all” (33%) about the wealth divide.
The differences are somewhat less stark when it comes to views of government action in reducing poverty: Nearly all Democrats (93%) and large majorities of independents (83%) and Republicans (64%) favor at least some government action. However, more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans say the government should do a lot to reduce poverty (67% vs. 27%), according to Pew Research Center.
In part, these differences reflect divergent beliefs about the effectiveness of government action on inequality and poverty. Republicans are far less likely than Democrats to say the government can do a lot to reduce poverty and especially inequality.
Wide Partisan Gap over How Best to Reduce PovertyWhen asked what would do more to reduce poverty, 54% of all Americans say raising taxes on the wealth y and corporations in order to expand programs for the poor. Fewer (35%) believe that lowering taxes on the wealth y to encourage investment and economic growth would be the more effective approach.
Three-quarters of Democrats favor raising taxes on the wealth y and corporations to expand programs for the poor as the better approach to lessen poverty. Republicans, by about two-to-one (59% to 29%), believe the government could do more to reduce poverty by lowering taxes on the wealth y and corporations in order to encourage more investment and economic growth.
Divisions are comparably wide when it comes to the effect of government assistance programs to the poor: By a 66% to 26% margin, most Democrats think aid to the poor helps because people can’t get out of poverty until their basic needs are met. But by a 65% to 28% margin, most Republicans believe these programs do more harm than good by making people too dependent on the government, according to Pew Research Center.
Two current policy proposals backed by the Obama administration to address poverty and the plight of the long-term unemployed draw substantial public support, although partisan differences are evident here as well.
Overall, 73% of the public favors raising the federal minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. And 63% back a one-year extension of unemployment benefits for those who have been out of work a long time. Both issues receive nearly unanimous support from Democrats and are favored by wide margins among independents but divide the GOP.
Among Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party, 70% who agree with the Tea Party oppose an extension of unemployment benefits and nearly as many oppose raising the minimum wage (65%). Yet 52% of non-Tea Party Republicans favor a one-year extension of unemployment benefits and an even higher percentage (65%) supports increasing the minimum wage.
The survey finds that more people think that circumstances beyond an individual’s control (50%) – rather than a lack of hard work (35%) – are generally to blame if a person is poor.
Similarly, more say that factors beyond an individual’s control have more to do with someone being rich. About half (51%) say having greater advantages than others generally has more to do with why a person is rich, while 38% say it is because they worked harder than others.
Moreover, by a 60% to 36% margin, most Americans feel the economic system unfairly favors the wealth y, as opposed to being fair to all, according to Pew Research Center.
Yet amidst these skeptical views, most Americans continue to believe that opportunity exists for those who make the effort. Six-in-ten (60%) say most people who want to get ahead can make it if they are willing to work hard. Some 38% take the more pessimistic view that hard work and determination are no guarantee of success for most people. While opinions about the nexus between success and hard work have changed little since 2011, a decade ago just 28% were of the view that hard work and determination were no guarantee of success.