Posts Tagged ‘survey’

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While we keep hearing the catchphrase “We’re all in this together,” most of us know we’re not.

Not in terms of the novel coronavirus pandemic. And even less in terms of the economic crisis caused by the response to the pandemic.

Just consider the lines that have formed. The lines of workers who are being subject to dangerous conditions while they commute to and labor in “essential” services and production; the lines of other workers who have been furloughed or laid off, who are waiting for their claims to be processed; the lines of the poor and needy waiting outside food pantries—their lives and livelihoods were precarious even before the pandemic. And now they’re even worse.

As it turns out, to judge from a survey conducted by Harris Poll and Lehigh University (pdf) in early April, the vast majority of Americans are well aware that something needs to be done to address the obscene levels of inequality in the United States. In response to the question “how important is it that the U.S. government commit to reducing economic inequality (i.e., the unequal distribution of income and opportunity between different groups) in this country within the next year?” 78 percent consider it to be somewhat or very important, while only 22 percent think it’s not very or not at all important. And those numbers are pretty consistent across different groups: gender, age, region, income, education, and so forth.

What that means is that the terms of the current debate—stay at home or reopen the economy, bail out corporations or states, and so on—miss the point entirely. What the vast majority of Americans want is for their government to commit itself to reducing the grotesque levels of economic inequality that preceded the pandemic, which have been highlighted by and only gotten more obscene during the current economic crisis.

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We already knew that Millenials are “generation screwed.” Now we know, thanks to the latest Harvard Public Opinion Project survey, that the majority (51 percent) does not support capitalism—and even fewer (just 19 percent) identify as capitalists.*

It also seems the members of Generation Y don’t see socialism as the preferred alternative (only 33 percent support it)—but at least those who have participated in Democratic primaries have been voting overwhelmingly for the democratic socialist candidate.

 

*A subsequent survey that included people of all ages found that somewhat older Americans also are skeptical of capitalism. Only among respondents at least 50 years old was the majority in support of capitalism.

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OK, maybe not all of us. Not even a majority of us.

But a little-noticed data point in the new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa poll, in fact, shows that 43 percent of likely voters in the 1 February Democratic caucuses say they would use the word “socialist” to describe themselves.

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And to be clear: this question was not whether they would vote for a socialist or sympathize with socialism; it’s whether they consider themselves socialist.

One way of thinking about the Bernie Sanders campaign is in terms of the possibility of dethroning Hillary Clinton, upsetting the party machine, and actually winning the Democratic nomination.

Another way, though, is that Sanders is holding up a mirror to the American electorate, which is showing itself to be very different from the ways it is usually represented. That new self-recognition can be a catalyst not only for Sanders, but also for other socialist political movements in the years ahead.

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Americans may not know the exact numbers (e.g., about wealth inequality or the CEO-to-worker pay gap). But, as it turns out, they’re very clear that their country is characterized by declining opportunity and growing inequality.

According to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute,

Americans across the political spectrum and from all walks of life are deeply concerned that the American economic system is not fair. What’s more, concerns about the fairness of the economic system have increased significantly over the past year.

For example, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans believe that “one of the big problems in this country is that we don’t give everyone an equal chance in life,” while fewer than three in ten (28 percent) believe that “it is not really that big a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others.” Concerns about the lack of equal opportunity have increased considerably since 2010, when 53 percent said that one of the big problems in the United States was the lack of equal opportunities for all.

Here are some of the other findings in the survey:

There is widespread agreement that the current economic system is heavily tilted in favor of the wealthy. Nearly eight in ten (79%) Americans agree that the economic system unfairly favors the wealthy, compared to roughly one in five (21%) who disagree. Current views represent an increase of 13 percentage points from 2012, when 66% of Americans agreed.

negative feelings toward large business corporations in the U.S. have also increased in recent years. Eighty-four percent of Americans agree that business corporations do not share enough of their success with their employees, compared to 15% who disagree. These negative views are up 15 percentage points from the previous year, when 69% of the public agreed that American businesses were not sharing enough of their profits with their workers. There is broad agreement with this assessment across a range of demographic groups.

The public today remains less confident that hard work is the key to economic success. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans agree that hard work is no guarantee of success, while more than one-third (35%) disagree. Current sentiments represent a 10-point increase since 2013, when 54% of Americans agreed with this statement.

More than three-quarters (76%) of the public supports raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. Support has ticked up slightly since last year, when 69% of Americans expressed support for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

Americans overwhelmingly support requiring companies to provide all full-time employees with paid sick days if they or an immediate family member gets sick, and requiring companies to provide all full-time employees with paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Eighty-five percent of Americans favor paid sick leave and 82% support paid parental leave.

Americans correctly understand that both declining opportunity and increasing inequality are significant problems in their country.

The question now is, what are they going to do about it?

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Back in May, the pollster YouGov surveyed Americans about their thoughts on socialism and capitalism.

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This month, after the Democratic debate, YouGov decided to poll the same question.

One thing to notice is that Democrats now have a more positive view of socialism—by double digits.

The question is: who are these 9-11 percent of Republicans who have a favorable opinion of socialism? I can’t say I’ve met any of them.

Update

YouGov also asked people the Anderson Cooper question: do you consider yourself a capitalist or socialist?

Capitalists outnumber socialists by three-to-one (30% to 9%) overall, but the majority say neither (46%) or “Not sure” (15%). Most independents and most Democrats are in neither the “socialist” nor the “capitalist” camp (though 21% identify as socialists, versus 14% as capitalists). Most Republicans (57%), however, call themselves capitalists.

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Union membership in the United States, which has fallen to its lowest level in the postwar period, may finally have bottomed out.

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Opinions of unions even seem to have recovered from lows reached in 2010 and 2011—while young people (18-29) especially have a positive (55 percent favorable versus 29 percent unfavorable) view of unions.

Now, the employees of Gawker Media [ht: sm] have voted by a substantial margin (80 to 27) to form a union, “a first for a prominent digital media outlet.”

the appeal of a union was clear to the employees, whose careers have been buffeted by instability and layoffs during the Great Recession and the unsettled economic recovery that has followed.

 

In a now-famous study (and video-gone-viral presentation by Colin Gordon), Dan Ariely and Michael I. Norton showed both that Americans underestimate the current level of wealth inequality in the United States and that they prefer a much more equal distribution than exists right now.

In a more recent study, Shai Davidai and Thomas Gilovich [pdf] used a similar approach to assess perceptions of economic mobility within the United States. Their work is important because, as they explain, “a core tenet of the American ethos is that there is considerable economic mobility.” In other words, even as various forms of inequality have grown over time, Americans can still argue the situation is not so bad if people can move up the ladder, making the transition “from rags to riches.”*

However, what Davidai and Gilovich found is that (1) people believe there is more upward mobility than downward mobility, (2) people overestimate the amount of upward mobility and underestimate the amount of downward mobility, (3) poorer individuals believe there is more mobility than richer individuals, and (4) political affiliation influences perceptions of economic mobility, with conservatives believing that the economic system is more dynamic—with more people moving both up and down the income distribution—than liberals do.

Their findings are important because the belief that upward mobility is more prevalent that downward mobility serves to justify the existing economic system. It reinforces the idea that capitalism is fair, legitimate, and just—that is, one can “make it” with appropriate effort. If they can’t, then existing inequalities look even harsher and more unfair.

If, however, the actual story is rags to rags and riches to rags—that is, it’s highly unlikely to move from the bottom to the top, and also unlikely to be able to stay at the top—it becomes much more difficult to justify the growing disparities between the top and the bottom. To put it differently, if the rungs of the ladder have grown further and further apart and people understand their misperceptions of actual rates of upward and downward mobility, they’re going to be less prone to accept the empty promises of increased opportunity offered by academics and politicians. What that means is they may become more open to the possibility of imagining and creating alternative economic institutions, in which the ladder of inequality is rendered less important.

 

*Although, as I often explain to students, even if workers can become capitalists, it is still the case that, qua capitalists, they find themselves in the position of exploiting others who occupy the position of workers.

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Another distressing, but not particularly surprising, result from the study by the Pew Research Center I wrote about yesterday: most of America’s financially secure citizens (54 percent at the very top, and 57 percent just below) believe the “poor have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.” They also think we can’t afford to do more for those in need.

America’s least financially secure, meanwhile, vehemently disagree; nearly 70 percent say the poor have hard lives because the benefits “don’t go far enough.” And, according to those at the bottom, we should do more for the needy, “even if it means more debt.”

A clearer divergence in political views between the most and least financially secure Americans won’t be found in the entire survey.

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According to a new study by the Pew Research Center [ht: sm], less financially secure Americans lean toward the Democratic Party but are also less likely to vote, especially in midterm elections.

Financial security is strongly correlated with nearly every measure of political engagement. For example, in 2014, almost all of the most financially secure Americans (94%) said they were registered to vote, while only about half (54%) of the least financially secure were registered. And although 2014 voting records are not yet available, pre-election estimates suggest that 63% of the most financially secure were “likely voters” last year, compared with just 20% of the least financially secure.

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And, of course, the different levels of political engagement matter. For example, the least secure group is more likely than those who are better off to say that businesses make too much profit (a 20-point difference with the most secure group). And while the least financially secure have a mixed view of government performance—about half (49 percent) say the “government is almost always wasteful and inefficient,” while nearly as many (48 percent) say government “often does a better job than people give it credit for”—there’s still a big difference from those at the top: among the two most financially secure groups, roughly six-in-ten fault the government for being wasteful and inefficient.

It is also perhaps not surprising that differing majorities across all of the groups—ranging from 67 percent of the least financially secure to 56 percent of the most secure—say that “good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace.” The children of the least financially secure are more likely to have to go to war if and when diplomacy fails.

There are, of course, many reasons why U.S. government policies favor those at the top. But making sure those who are least financially secure don’t vote plays an important role.

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According to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll [ht: sm], a majority of Americans answered yes to the following question: are the country’s economic and political systems stacked against people like you?

Among those saying the system is stacked against them are 58% of Democrats; 51% of Republicans; 55% of whites; 60% of blacks; 53% of Hispanics; as well as decent majorities of every age and professional cluster, including blue-collar workers, white-collar workers and retirees.

So who are the rare outliers who feel more in synch with the system? Not surprisingly, those who are well off and well educated. Among those with post-graduate degrees, just 38% say they feel the system is stacked against them. Among those who earn more than $75,000 a year, 44% feel that way.

Clearly, many Americans feel like turkeys these days, with the system stacked against them.