Growth in perceptions of class conflict

There’s a new Pew Research survey showing that a growing number of Americans see conflict between the wealthy and poor. Because of this growth, more people now view class conflict (as measured by wealth) as more prevalent than conflicts between native-born and immigrants, blacks and whites, and between the young and old. This poll is making the cable news and blogosphere rounds because the number of people who see a strong conflict in this category has risen 19 percentage points over 2009. In fact, all categorical demographics saw a rise in public perception:

The Occupy Wall Street movement no longer occupies Wall Street, but the issue of class conflict has captured a growing share of the national consciousness. A new Pew Research Center survey of 2,048 adults finds that about two-thirds of the public (66%) believes there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and the poor—an increase of 19 percentage points since 2009.

Not only have perceptions of class conflict grown more prevalent; so, too, has the belief that these disputes are intense. According to the new survey, three-in-ten Americans (30%) say there are “very strong conflicts” between poor people and rich people. That is double the proportion that offered a similar view in July 2009 and the largest share expressing this opinion since the question was first asked in 1987.

They also break it down by income:

It’s interesting to see sentiments spike among middle-income Americans. Yet even for those making 75k or more they’re a higher percentage than the low-income bracket. I have to wonder if perception of the same class conflict issue arises from two very different places – I.e., the rich feeling “attacked” and vice-versa.

The one other interesting nugget to come out of this survey are views concerning why the rich are rich:

It’s evenly split between those believe the rich are wealthy because of birth or social connections and because of hard work, ambition or education. I guess meritocratic virtue is still held in high regard – though looking at mobility in this country we see that perhaps it’s really the 8% who say “both” that may be closer to the mark.


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