In a new Gallup poll released on the economy just over two-thirds of Americans are unhappy with the distribution of wealth and income in the United States. Inequality has become a salient topic recently: from Pope Francis’ remarks, to the recent anniversary of the War on Poverty, and speeches by both President Obama and Senator Marco Rubio. That focus seems to reflect in Monday’s results from Gallup, where dissatisfaction about economic inequality is elevated even along partisan lines.
Conducted earlier this month, the poll found that 67 percent of national adults are either “somewhat” or “very dissatisfied” this aspect of economic life in America. As Gallup notes, “[a]ttitudes about the distribution of income and wealth are highly related to partisanship,” but even broken down along partisan lines there is a surprising level of concern over inequality. Here is the full table:
As you can see there is some partisan divergence on this question, which is commonplace, but there are two surprises. First, that even a slight majority — 54 percent — of Republicans are dissatisfied with income and wealth distribution. Secondly, that those identifying as political Independents mirror Democratic levels of dissatisfaction. That category, especially since 2008, has more often been closer to Republican opinion numbers (see “Top Issues…by Party ID” from the same sampling period).
There was a more stable finding when asked about economic opportunities, with 54 percent of Americans reported being satisfied about the chances of getting ahead in this country. The partisan line for that inquiry, however, changes with Republicans and Democrats showing similar attitudes. As an exception, Independents were the only category where a majority (53 percent) were dissatisfied.
These are cogent questions to be asking right now given the recent media and elite attention, as well as the upcoming 6th State of the Union address from President Obama. National Journal reported that the speech will indeed focus on what’s being considered the campaign theme for Democrats in 2014 — on economic inequality — but that there is something of an intra-party debate over how best to focus on this subject:
The party’s centrist wing, which generally backs entitlement reforms and free-trade agreements that appeal to the more affluent, wants Obama to use the speech to convey an economic-growth message. The liberal wing is urging a more confrontational approach toward Wall Street and higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
Whichever way the President splits the ideological hairs here, as it is written later in that same piece, this or any other emphasis most-likely will not make much a difference in Congressional legislating this year. However the theme, and subsequent outreach to voters, could plausibly cause Democratic and left-leaning Independents to show up in greater than normal numbers at the polls for an off-year election. Building off the general dissatisfaction of Americans towards income and wealth inequality is one approach to make that a successful effort.
Note: Originally posted at The McLean Parlor