December 17, 2011

IF SOCIAL STATUS ENVY IS MAINLY ABOUT OUR PERCEPTION OF OUR NEIGHBORS....

Why Obama's New Populism May Sink His Campaign (William Galston, December 17, 2011, New Republic)

Let me start with a Gallup survey released on December 15, which showed that the number of Americans who see American society as divided into haves and have-nots has decreased significantly since the 2008 election. Back then, 49 percent saw the country as divided along those lines, and 49 percent didn't. As of this week, only 41 percent see the country as divided between haves and have-nots, while 58 percent do not. (The share of Americans who consider themselves to be "haves" hasn't budged: 59 percent in 2008, 58 percent today.)

Significantly, most of the reduction in those seeing the country as economically divided has occurred in the middle of the political spectrum. In 2008, 48 percent of independents saw an economic divide; today it's 37 percent. In 2008, 51 percent of moderates saw a divide, versus only 38 percent now. Liberals are the only group that has become more likely to see a divided society--63 percent in 2008, 66 percent today. While invoking sharpening divisions will thrill them, it may have the opposite effect on the moderates and independents without whose support national Democratic candidates will fail.

Now consider another Gallup survey, this one released on the 16th. Respondents were asked to categorize three economic objectives as extremely important, very important, somewhat important, or not important. Here's what they said:

                                                Extremely/very important          Somewhat/not important

Grow and expand
the economy                                         82                                            18

Increase equality of
opportunity for people to
get ahead                                               70                                            30

Reduce the income and
wealth gap between the
rich and the poor                                  46                                            54
 

Regardless of partisanship, substantial majorities of Americans saw expanding the economy and increasing equality of opportunity as extremely or very important. Not so for reducing income and wealth gaps--21 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of independents. Only Democrats gave this goal a high priority, by a margin of 72 to 27.

...and we currently perceive everyone to be struggling, how are you going to drum up anger about social inequality?  Indeed, the great irony of the Occupations is that because the movement is mainly populated by the wealthy it reinforces the notion that the wealthy are struggling too and defuses pressure for reductions in inequality.   

Posted by at December 17, 2011 9:55 AM
  

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