As Republicans gather for their national convention in Tampa to nominate a presidential candidate known, in part, as a wealthy businessman, a new nationwide Pew Research Center survey finds that many Americans believe the rich are different than other people. They are viewed as more intelligent and more hardworking but also greedier and less honest.
Nearly six-in-ten survey respondents (58%) also say the rich pay too little in taxes, while 26% say they pay their fair share, and just 8% say they pay too much. Even among those who describe themselves as upper or upper-middle class1, 52% say upper-income Americans don’t pay enough in taxes.
In spite of these views, overwhelming majorities of self-described middle- and lower-class Americans say they admire people who get rich by working hard (92% and 84%, respectively).
The new survey, which was conducted July 16-26, 2012, among 2,508 adults nationwide, finds that a majority of the public (65%) thinks the nation’s income gap between rich and poor has grown in the past decade—and most say that’s a bad thing for the country.
The survey also finds that the gap between rich and poor goes far beyond income. Adults who self-identify as being in the upper or upper-middle class are generally happier, healthier and more satisfied with their jobs than are those in the middle or lower classes. And they are much less likely to have suffered economic hardships as a result of the recession.
In addition, those in the upper class are more satisfied than those in the middle or lower classes with their family life, their housing situation and their education. Upper-class Americans even report experiencing less stress. Only 29% of those in the upper class say they frequently experience stress, compared with 37% of those in the middle class and 58% of lower-class adults.
When asked how much income it would take for a family to be considered wealthy in their area, most Americans say a family of four would need at least $100,000. Some 39% say they would need between $100,000 and $249,999, and 30% say it would take $250,000 or more. The median amount for all respondents was $150,000. The public estimates a family of four would need about half as much income ($70,000) to lead a middle-class lifestyle in their area. As would be expected, the responses vary significantly by region of the country, as well as by income and other demographic characteristics.
These survey findings present challenges for both political parties, but more so for the Republicans than the Democrats. More than six-in-ten Americans (63%) say the GOP favors the rich over the middle class and poor, and 71% believe the policies of a President Mitt Romney would be good for wealthy people. Much smaller shares say the same about the Democratic Party (20%) and the policies of President Barack Obama in a second term (37%). When it comes to Obama, more say his policies will help the poor (60%) than say they will help the middle class (50%) or the wealthy (37%). By contrast, just 31% say Romney’s policies would help the poor and 40% say they would help the middle class.
Source: Pew Research Center