The new Gilded Age gets noticed

We’re apparently not supposed to talk about this outside of “quiet rooms,” but more and more Americans are taking note of the tensions between the haves and the have nots.

About two-thirds of the public now believes there are strong conflicts between the rich and poor in America, making class a likelier source of tension than traditional flash points of race or nationality, a study from the Pew Research Center found.

The nonprofit think tank in Washington released a study Wednesday that reported a growing number of Americans say there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and poor — a number that has risen by 9 percent since July 2009.

“It is kind of amazing,” said Richard Morin, a senior editor at Pew who authored the study. “This is people not only sensing conflict, but people sensing an intensity of these conflicts — that’s what makes it striking and politically important.”

The beliefs are widespread — a majority of Americans in every income group and all political parties agree that there are growing conflicts between the wealthy and everyone else.

Republicans reviewing these numbers may pause to consider the data in the context of the 2012 presidential race. Exactly how wise is it to nominate a callous multi-millionaire who was born into a wealthy family, only to get much richer by laying off thousands of American workers?

The question is whether the times match the candidate.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.