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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: A Gallup Poll on Attitudes Toward the Wealthy

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Gallup Poll on Attitudes Toward the Wealthy

A Gallup poll released today released a survey of American’s opinion on the distribution of earnings and wealth.  It is an ongoing survey conducted for more than a decade.  The three questions and response are provided below.
  1. Do you feel that the distribution of money and wealth in this country today is fair, or do you feel that the money and wealth in this country should be more evenly distributed among a larger percentage of the people? (Distribution is fair, 35%; should be more evenly distributed, 51%; no opinion, 8%)
  2. As far as you are concerned, do we have too many rich people in this country, too few, or about the right amount? (Too many, 31%; too few, 21%, right amount, 42%, no opinion 7%)
  3. People feel differently about how far a government should go. Here is a phrase which some people believe in and some don’t. Do you think our government should or should not redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich? (Yes, should, 47%; no, should not, 49%; no opinion, 4%)
The majority of respondents clearly answered the second question incorrectly.  There are obviously too few rich people.  The percentage of rich should approach 100%.

The results of the first and third questions are interesting in and of themselves, but I would like to see deeper results.  As follow up questions to the first, I would ask why and give the following options.
  1. The economic system favors the wealthy.
  2. The political system favors the wealthy.
  3. I want the rich to pay for benefits I receive from the government.
  4. I want to pay for the benefits of others so long as others in my socioeconomic class do as well.

To the third question, I would again ask why and give following options.
  1. Taxing the rich more will help the economy grow.
  2. Taxing the rich more will not affect the economy.
  3. Taxing the rich more will harm economic performance, but I want to punish the rich.
  4. Taxing the rich more will help economic performance, but it not fair to more heavily tax the rich.
  5. Taxing the rich more will harm economic performance.


  1. Those are good follow-up questions. I would also be curious to see what income/asset level people consider as rich or wealthy.

  2. AS proposes a great question. My guess is that rich or wealthy starts at about 100% more than a respondent's income. I believe that rich starts at about 10 million in net assets which is many times higher than my net worth.