Rising Share of Americans See Conflict Between Rich and Poor

Even though most of the Occupy Wall Street protests have died down, the conflict between the rich and poor has not gone away. A new Pew Research Center survey of 2,048 adults shows that nearly 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. The intensity of this conflict has also increased. According to this 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. In addition, conflicts between rich and poor now rank ahead of three other potential sources of group tension—between immigrants and the native born; between blacks and whites; and between young and old.


I am sure this increase in the conflict between the rich and poor is somewhat due to the message conveyed by Occupy Wall Street protesters along with the media attention they received. These changes may also show how many of us now view the distribution of wealth in our country. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, the proportion of overall wealth—a measure that includes home equity, stocks and bonds and the value of jewelry, furniture and other possessions—held by the top 10% of the population increased from 49% in 2005 to 56% in 2009. Another reason for this increase could be how some view the rich. According to this study, 46% believe that most rich people are wealthy mainly because they know the right people or were born into wealthy families. On a side note, 43% still believe in the American Dream and say that wealthy people became rich mainly because of their own hard work, ambition or education. Here are some other points from this survey.


Conflict Between Rich and Poor


The perception that strong and growing conflicts exist between the economic classes is broadly held. Not only do those at the bottom rungs of the income scale agree that there are serious disagreements between the economic classes, but even those who are relatively well-off hold that belief. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of all adults with family incomes of less than $20,000 a year report serious conflicts between the rich and poor—a view shared by 67% of those earning $75,000 a year or more.


Young people (ages 18 to 34) are more likely than those 35 or older to see “strong” conflicts between the rich and poor. According to the survey, more than seven-in-ten (71%) of these young adults say there are major disagreements between the most and least affluent. This is not too surprising since this age group was largely tied to The Occupy movement and are the ones that are struggling to find work even though they may have a college degree.


Democrats and political liberals are far more likely than Republicans or conservatives to say there are major conflicts between rich people and poor people. Almost three-quarters of Democrats (73%) say there are serious class conflicts, an 18 percentage point increase over those who said that in 2009. A majority of Republicans also see serious conflicts between rich and poor. In addition, 68% of independents feel this way too.


I found this poll to be very interesting. I know that many are discouraged right now and feel the cards are stacked against them. I can understand why some feel this way and think they have been dealt an unfair hand. The thing is, complaining about this inequality and doing nothing will not change your situation. Yes, some people have been given an advantage over you but you cannot control that – the only thing that you can control and change is yourself. My hope is that sites such as this one will give you some of the information you need to make that change and improve your financial situation.