January 29, 2014

Inequality, poverty divide Republicans more than Democrats

FT_Rep-Dem-Poverty-InequalityIn recent weeks, many political observers have described a rift between liberals and centrists in the Democratic Party over how to tackle poverty, income inequality, and broader issues of economic fairness. Some have framed the discussion around Elizabeth Warren vs. Hillary Clinton. Others have focused on differences between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has proposed raising taxes on the rich to pay for a citywide prekindergarten program, and Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has vowed to lower taxes.

But a new Pew Research Center/USA TODAY survey suggests that, at least for the moment, the issue of how best to deal with poverty and income inequality – and whether the government should address these issues at all – divides Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party more than it does Democrats and leaners. (See full table with detailed party breakdowns.)

To be sure, majorities of 60% or more among Republicans and Democrats across the ideological spectrum agree that inequality is on the rise, and about 90% of liberal and centrist Democrats say the government should do something about it. But while a 61%-majority of moderate and liberal Republicans say the government should do something to reduce the gap between the rich and everyone else, 55% of conservative Republicans don’t want the government to do much or anything at all about inequality.

Conservative Republicans are also far more likely than more moderate Republicans to say the government would do more to reduce poverty by lowering taxes on the wealthy and corporations to encourage investment and economic growth (70% vs. 42%); half of moderate and liberal Republicans say raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations to expand programs for the poor is a more effective way to reduce poverty. And while 78% of conservative Republicans believe government aid to the poor does more harm than good by making people too dependent on the government, more among moderate and liberal Republicans say it does more good than harm (52%) than say it has a negative impact (40%).

When it comes to increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, conservative Republicans oppose it by a 55% to 41% margin, while more centrist Republicans favor it by 71% to 29%.  These two groups are somewhat less divided on proposals to extend federal unemployment benefits for a year – 50% of liberal and moderate Republicans favor it, compared with just 39% of conservative Republicans.

On all of these questions, there is far more consensus among liberal and centrist Democrats. For example, about 80% or more of Democrats who describe themselves as liberal and those who say they are moderate or conservative endorse a minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour and a one-year extension of  unemployment benefits for those out of work for a long time.

Solid majorities among liberal and centrist Democrats also agree that government aid to the poor does more good than harm because people can’t get out of poverty until their basic needs are met and that raising taxes on the wealthy and corporation to expand program for the poor is the most effective way to reduce poverty, even though liberal Democrats are more likely than more centrist ones to favor a tax increase by 13 percentage points.

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Poverty, Income Inequality

  1. Photo of Juliana Menasce Horowitz

    is an associate director of research at Pew Research Center.


  1. george kibby2 years ago

    George Petts from a year ago has one very big problem in his story about the French Revolution. First off, where does Obama go to get his billions he needs to convince the low information voters he is their man? Millionaires who will gladly pay $44,000 for a four dollar meal as long as they are sitting with-in 200 yards of him. What has happened in the years since Obama took office? The disparity between rich and poor has increased because although his programs have catchy names, they fatten the pockets of his millionaire contributors. Just look at how his biggest contributors don’t have to abide by Obamacare. They were PERSONALLY given that “gift” by Obama himself. If I were a betting man, which I am not, I would say that the military, which for good reason totally despises Obama, would take the conservative side. The masses on the liberal “side” have been on the government tit for so long, they would probably implode into anarchy with in a week. Any more, the places where the poor live are democrat strong holds where their policies have forced the big employers to move away. Unfortunately waaay far away. The great unwashed have a fair amount of people behind them, no doubt. But they only “control” a tiny percentage of the area of the United States. It wouldn’t take too much to keep them there. As Mr Petts looks at history, so will I. When these low information types riot, what do they burn down. Their own neighborhoods. That’s the kind of “enemy” I would want to battle. One that would destroy ITSELF. Bring it on Mr Petts. Bring it on.

  2. Morgan Samson3 years ago

    This is interesting. The strength of the Republican Party for the last 40 years has been in its unity – the Democrats took the role as the “big tent” party and have at times had trouble holding it together. How fascinating to watch the “united” Republicans splitting into two groups. Even more fascinating to watch the Congressional leadership try to simultaneously please both factions.

  3. Tom4 years ago

    I would be interested in other demographics of the respondents, even though it might require a much larger sample: sex, age, educational level, place of residence, profession, position (CEO, manager, etc.), type of business (if appropriate), public or private company, how long with the company, year company/business started, income category (if people are willing to say!). After learning all of that, then ask about political affiliation.

    1. Zach3 years ago

      Those demographics would be intere to know I agree. However, the article mentions similarities to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs stating the difficulty of progression through income brackets is more viable once basic needs are met.. So essentially I’m saying that a little thought you could answer all of the questions you have about those demographics because people will vote on what they need at the most basic level first regardless of political affiliation. 🙂

  4. Mike4 years ago

    The melting pot of american society was always brought to simmer by economic growth. We have shipped both the pot and the fire out of the country. Therefore, no melting is going on and the folks in DC find it easy to go after votes based on class warfare. A sad state of affairs. No one at Chateau De Versailles on the Potomac cares, just keep voting them back in.

  5. Bill Schultz4 years ago

    Thanks to all the PEW staff!!! 99.9% of all men named Bill in my house prefer “PEW OVER FOXNEWS”!!! (just my opinion!!!!)

  6. Edward4 years ago

    I was raised in a household that did recieve food stamps, my Mother worked hard to try to provide, but somehow a minimum wage job didn’t pay all of the bills and keep food on the table. She worked two jobs and went to school part time to improve our status. My mother graduated College the same day I finished High School. Without government assistance we would all be in the same place, but I was able to follow my mother to college and I now have a good job and I have happily paid more in taxes than we ever took from the system. I advocate for a flat tax, no exemptions (that would be the hard part, everyone loves exemptions, myself included). With this everyone pays a share and the reward is still there for hard work. I am not an economist so I do not have a % that would magically solve our problems, but if we assume 10-15% flat, most people would pay less than they are now, and yes, the wealthiest would pay more, but at least it would be a fair tax instead of a tax with loopholes for those that could afford them.

  7. George Petts4 years ago

    The 1% need to recognize that the engine that drives their stock prices higher and higher is a prosperous middle class. If they succeed in reducing America to a nation of vassals the bubble will burst. Further the hypothesis that the 1% are “job creators” has been tested by history and found to be untrue. Americans are free to organize and they might. Rather than make analogies to Krystalnacht, as one billionaire has done, the 1% should consider the French revolution of the late 1700’s. The continuing obstinacy of the political right on this issue has frustrated and angered a larger and larger number of citizens. The ideas of nonviolent protest and working within the system are not moving this opposition even though large majorities favor proactive government action to lift people out of poverty and restore opportunity to America. The shadow of the guillotine is now visible.

    1. slk4 years ago

      so you’re saying we should have a revolution against capitalism, and we’ll all be equal…ly poor like before the french revolution, or before amd after the russian revolution, and after the cuban and venezualan revolutions??? if you would apply yourself, you would have a better chance at succeeding!!! no one ever prospered by holding their hand out!!! my father brought me and my mom to this great country, from the old soviet controlled czechoslovakia, where we all found out about being equal…ly poor!!! and now you want to do to the USA, what fails miserable everywhere!!! again, just apply yourself and forget about envy and jealousy!!! and if you’re going to school, take a responsible course that’ll get you a good job, or quit school and get a skill!!! there are plenty of those out there!!! p.s. istead of bringing more chinese engineers here, do something about that!!!

  8. slk4 years ago

    inequality will “alwaya” get wider!!! WHY??? because you’ll always have those who work for more, as opposed to those who always “want” more!!! 18 million more people recieving “food stamps”, over the last 5 years!!! how many of the 48 million are taking advantage of the governments easy access!!!