Class Conflict Awareness Rose Significantly From 2009 To
Significantly more Americans see "very strong" or
"strong" class conflict between the rich and poor,
according to a survey released Wednesday by the Pew
Research Center. The results show that Americans think
that conflicts between the rich and poor are stronger
than immigrant and native born, black and white and
young and old.
In 2009, 47 percent of respondents said there were "very
strong" or "strong" conflicts between the rich and poor.
In 2011, 66 percent saw the same, possibly signaling
that the "We are the 99 percent" rhetoric of Occupy Wall
Street has had an impact. The ongoing economic recession
also may have magnified class differences as income
inequality has risen, continuing a trend occurring in
American society since at least the 1970s.
Democrats in general -- and President Barack Obama in
specific -- have also spoken out about income
inequality. "Now, this kind of inequality -- a level
that we haven't seen since the Great Depression -- hurts
us all," Obama said in a December speech in Kansas. The
GOP front-runner for the presidency, Mitt Romney, has in
turn charged Obama with promulgating the "politics of
envy" and said that discussions over the distribution of
wealth were "fine" to talk about "in quiet rooms in
discussions about tax policy."
Media mentions about income inequality have also risen
significantly since the start of the Occupy Wall Street
The Pew survey found that whites had significantly
larger increases in perception of class conflict than
blacks and hispanics, rising to 65 percent from 43
percent in 2009. Seventy-four percent of blacks and 61
percent of hispanics see class conflicts, increasing by
single digits from 2009.
The perception of class conflict has also intensified --
30 percent see "very strong conflicts," a figure that
doubled from 2009. marking the largest increase since
the question was first asked in 1987.
Other social conflicts were less intense. Thirty-eight
percent of Americans saw "very strong" or "strong"
conflicts between blacks and whites, virtually unchanged
from 2009, and 62 percent saw "very strong" or "strong
conflict" between immigrants and native born, up 7
percent from 2009. Thirty-four percent saw "very strong"
or "strong" conflicts between young and old, up 11
percent from 2009.
Grievances, however, against the wealthy did not
increase, with 46 percent saying that rich people "are
wealthy mainly because they know the right people or
were born into wealthy families," and 43 percent saying
they are wealthy because "of their own hard work,
ambition or education."
Young people -- suffering the highest levels of
unemployment -- see class conflict significantly more
than older people, with 71 percent of people aged 18 to
34 seeing "very strong" or "strong" class conflicts
while just 55 percent of people over 65 see them.
Republicans see class conflict less than Democrats and
independents. GOP leaders have dismissed calls to raise
taxes on the wealthy, calling it "class warfare." Still,
55 percent of Republicans see "strong" or "very strong"
class conflicts in comparison to 73 percent of Democrats
and 68 percent of independents.
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