Poll: Most See Economy as Helping Rich, Hurting Poor

(CN) – Despite strong economic indicators, a poll released Wednesday found most Americans say the U.S. economy is beneficial to the wealthy and harmful to the poor and those in the middle class.

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Aug. 13. (AP file photo)

In a Pew Research Center survey of 6,878 adults between Sept. 16 and 29, researchers found that 69% of respondents said current economic conditions help wealthy people, 58% said the economy is harmful to the middle class and 64% said it hurts the poor.

In addition, a 46% plurality said that the economy did more harm than good to themselves and their families.

Researchers also stratified respondents by income, and they found that both upper and middle-class Americans felt that the current economic conditions were good or excellent, but 57% of lower income respondents said that the economy was fair or poor.

Pew researchers used familiar metrics to judge respondents’ feelings about the current economy, including worrying about paying bills and the comfort level of their personal lifestyle.

A 41% plurality of respondents said they worry about paying their bills almost every day or every day, but the average belied a significant disparity between the rich and the poor. Only 14% of upper-income respondents said they worry about paying their bills frequently, whereas 65% of lower-income respondents said the same – with 44% who said they worry about paying their bills every single day, rather than just frequently.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they worry about health care costs almost every day or every day, but the disparity between rich and poor mirrored that of bills in general. Just 18% of upper-income respondents said that they worry about health care costs frequently, whereas 55% of lower-income respondents said the same.

Though the ever-present partisan divide appeared in the latest survey, Republican respondents’ income bracket made a noticeable difference in their feelings about the current economy. Overall, 75% of Republicans felt that the economy was good or excellent, but 43% of lower-income Republicans felt that the economy was fair or poor – more than double the 21% of middle-class Republicans who felt negatively about the economy.

Democrats indicated slimmer disparities between income brackets on the same question, but were more divided overall. Fifty-nine percent of Democratic respondents said that the economy was fair or poor, and 41% said it was good or excellent.

Upper-income Democrats were most favorable to the economy, with 55% who said it was good or excellent. Middle-class Democrats fell at about the average, with 58% who said the economy was doing poorly and 42% who said it was good. A 66% majority of lower-income Democrats felt that the economy was doing poorly.

Respondents indicated that food and consumer goods prices, health care costs and their income had the most impact on their personal financial situation.

More specifically, lower-income respondents were the most affected by these three factors. Fifty-seven percent of them said prices of food and consumer goods affect their household a great deal, 49% said the same of health care prices and 57% said the same of wages and income.

Though 42% of upper-income respondents were concerned about wages and income, such respondents were the most likely to say that they were affected by the stock market, at 25%. In contrast, only 13% of lower income and 14% of middle-class respondents said the same of the stock market.

Among all metrics, including gas prices, job availability and real estate values, consumer goods represented the most disparate impact between the rich and the poor, with only 22% of upper-income respondents saying prices of consumer affect their household significantly.

However, the largest disparity between rich and poor in the survey was over whether respondents said they lived comfortably. Seventy-two percent of upper-income respondents said that they lived a comfortable lifestyle, compared to only 8% of lower-income respondents.

A 52% majority of middle-class respondents said that they were able to pay their bills with savings left over, but a 39% plurality of lower-income respondents said they only make enough to meet basic expenses.

Seventeen percent of lower-income respondents said that they were unable to make ends meet.

Nonetheless, most people who said that their expenses exceed their incomes said they expect that they will be able to live comfortably in the future – 84% among upper-income respondents, 68% of the middle class and 56% for lower-income respondents.

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