More Americans believe there is significantly more class conflict between the rich and poor than two years ago, according to a survey released by the Pew Research Center on Wednesday.
The survey found that 66 percent of Americans believe there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and the poor, a 19 point increase from 2009. The greatest increase came from middle-income Americans earning between $40,000 and $75,000, a jump from 47 percent to 71 percent.
Younger adults, women, Democrats and African Americans are more likely than older people, men, Republicans, whites or Hispanics to perceive a strong conflict between the rich and poor.
While the public now perceives more class conflict, their opinion on why the rich are rich is largely unchanged from a Pew survey in 2008. The public is still split on whether the rich are wealthy because of they were born into wealthy families or whether the rich are wealthy because of their own hard work.
The rise in the amount of Americans who perceive strong conflicts between the rich and poor may reflect the political climate over the past year.
The “Occupy Wall Street” movement has helped foster a public debate about economic inequality in the United States, while Republicans have repeatedly accused President Obama and Democrats of waging “class warfare” against the rich.
The rise in perceived class conflict may reflect demographic changes as well.
A study released in November 2011 found that the rich and poor have grown more isolated from each other over the past 40 years. In 2007, nearly a third of American families — 31 percent — lived in either an affluent neighborhood or a mainly low-income one, up from just 15 percent in 1970, according to the study conducted by Stanford University, and released in partnership with the Russell Sage Foundation and Brown University.
Meanwhile, 44 percent of American families lived in middle-class neighborhoods in 2007, down from 65 percent in 1970.
Photo credit: Michael Prados