About two-thirds of Americans now believe there are strong conflicts between the rich and poor, 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 released a study Wednesday that found a growing number of Americans say there are “strong” or “very strong” conflicts between the rich and poor — a number that has grown 19 percent since July 2009. This growing class friction is a greater potential source of tension in the country now than traditional divides over immigration, race and age.
“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.”
This pronounced attitude shift occurred throughout the income spectrum — to the very poor to wealthy — as well as among those with diverse political views. But younger adults, Democrats and African-Americans were more likely than others to sense the class tension, according to the study, a national survey of 2,048 adults.
While the survey results show a significant shift in public perceptions of class conflict in American life, they do not necessarily signal an increase in grievances toward the wealthy. It is possible that individuals who see more conflict between the classes think that anger toward the rich is misdirected. Nor do these data suggest growing support for government measures to reduce income inequality.
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