There are move have-nots than haves in every society. In the past, America has not had a lot of conflict between haves and have-nots. But more Americans than ever think this truce will not last much longer. The Pew Research Center reports on this change.
The Occupy Wall Street movement no longer occupies Wall Street, but the issue of class conflict has captured a growing share of the national consciousness. A new Pew Research Center survey of 2,048 adults finds that about two-thirds of the public (66%) believes there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and the poor—an increase of 19 percentage points since 2009.
Not only have perceptions of class conflict grown more prevalent; so, too, has the belief that these disputes are intense. According to the new survey, three-in-ten Americans (30%) say there are “very strong conflicts” between poor people and rich people. That is double the proportion that offered a similar view in July 2009 and the largest share expressing this opinion since the question was first asked in 1987.
As a result, in the public’s evaluations of divisions within American society, conflicts between rich and poor now rank ahead of three other potential sources of group tension—between immigrants and the native born; between blacks and whites; and between young and old. Back in 2009, more survey respondents said there were strong conflicts between immigrants and the native born than said the same about the rich and the poor.
This is a major shift. I do not recall anything like this over the last 45 years. It has happened in the last two years.
While blacks are still more likely than whites see serious class conflicts, the share of whites who hold this view has increased by 22 percentage points, to 65%, since 2009. At the same time, the proportion of blacks (74%) and Hispanics (61%) sharing this judgment has grown by single digits (8 and 6 points, respectively).
This is new for America. The decades of social peace produced a stable country. This is likely to change.
About two-thirds of the public say there are strong conflicts between the rich and the poor, and nearly half of these (30%) say these conflicts are “very strong.” An additional 36% say these differences are “strong,” while 23% view them as “not very strong.” Only 7% say there are no conflicts between rich and poor Americans, while the remainder does not offer an opinion. . . .
That represents a major change from the Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2009. At that time, a larger share of Americans believed that there were more strong conflicts between immigrants and the native born than between rich and poor people (55% vs. 47%). Today, even though perceptions of disagreements between immigrants and the native born have increased by 7 percentage points in the past two years, this social divide now ranks behind rich-poor conflicts in the public’s hierarchy of social flashpoints.
It’s not just the rich who are concerned.
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of all adults with family incomes of less than $20,000 a year report serious conflicts between the rich and poor—a view shared by 67% of those earning $75,000 a year or more.
Moreover, the perceptions of class conflicts have grown in virtual lock step across all income groups since 2009, rising by 17 percentage points among those earning less than $20,000 and by 18 points among those making $75,000 or more.
Younger adults think this. So do Baby Boomers.
Baby Boomers ages 50 to 64—the mothers and fathers of the Occupy generation—are nearly as likely to say there are serious conflicts between the upper and lower classes; fully two-thirds (67%) say this, a 22-point increase in the past two years. Among those ages 35 to 49, more than six-in-ten (64%) see serious class conflicts.
When the economy gets tight, as it will, politics will not be able to heal this nation. There will be a loss of faith in the federal government.
I hope you live in a safe county. If not, maybe it is time to make some changes.