The Very Rich Are Different From You and Me

Wealthy Americans, by a sizeable margin, consider the federal debt to be the nation’s most important problem. Unlike the public as a whole, they support cutting spending on a wide variety of government programs, including health care and social security. They are much less supportive of corporate taxation, and they strongly oppose redistributing wealth by heavy taxes on the rich.

Imagine what the political debate in Washington would sound like if these people called the shots . . .

Benjamin Page has been spearheading an effort to generate systematic data on the political preferences and behavior of wealthy Americans. The results of a Chicago-area pilot survey are reported in an article by Page, Jason Seawright, and me in the latest issue of Perspectives on Politics. Cambridge University Press has kindly ungated the article, along with several others in a stimulating symposium on “The Politics of Inequality in the Face of Financial Crisis.” Scholars Strategy Network has Page’s summary of the findings, and today’s Los Angeles Times has an op-ed-size bite.

The logistical and analytical challenges in this sort of research are daunting—but the potential payoff for our understanding of the political process seems to me to be enormous.

[Originally posted at The Monkey Cage]

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Larry Bartels

Larry Bartels is a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University.