Class warfare sure is popular, redux

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll included a couple of questions we don’t usually see in national polling, addressing wealth and the class gap.

“I’d like to ask you about the distribution of wealth in this country — that is, the gap between how much money wealthy people have compared with how much money the rest of the population has. Do you think this gap is larger than it’s been historically, smaller, or about the same?”

Larger: 61%
Smaller: 5%
Same: 31%

“Do you think the federal government should or should not pursue policies that try to reduce the gap between wealthy and less well-off Americans?”

Should pursue: 60%
Should not pursue: 35%

Conservatives, by virtue of the right’s ideology, must find these results terribly offensive. Indeed, for a long while, one of the top rhetorical goals for Republicans has been to stop anyone from even mentioning any of this out loud — those who dare to bring up the class gap are supposed to be shouted down immediately with cries of “class warfare” and “socialism.”

But the efforts to stunt the public discourse haven’t stopped the American mainstream from noticing what is plainly true.

What’s more, the polls offer a noteworthy reminder about public attitudes towards government activism. Greg Sargent noted this morning, “There’s no denying that many polls show general hostility towards government and spending. But public opinion is volatile and in flux, and there’s simply no clear evidence that the conservative vision is carrying the day with the public.”

Exactly. Look at the question in the poll again: respondents weren’t just asked about narrowing the growing gap between the rich and poor, but also whether they wanted the government to intervene to reduce that gap — and a clear majority endorsed this activism, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

Other recent polls, by the way, show even larger majorities support raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires, which is clearly an extension of the same class-based concerns.

This is not what one would expect in a country that’s allegedly center-right.