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New research from Berkeley political scientists gave Americans a choice of seven policy options on taxes, with the first three all involving raising taxes on the rich and the last three all involving options that would cut the taxes rich people pay. Americans overwhelmingly chose the first three options. (Photo: Darya Mead/Flickr/cc)
What can we expect Congress to do about America’s staggeringly top-heavy concentration of income and wealth over the next two years? Absolutely nothing.
What do Americans want Congress to do about that concentration? A good bit.
We know the first answer from the simple math of last week’s election results. Republicans now hold a chokehold on both chambers of Congress. No legislation that would even slightly inconvenience America’s awesomely affluent has any chance of even coming up for a vote.
The answer to the second question reflects, in part, exit polling that the Washington Post and other major media outlets jointly conducted on election day. That polling included a suggestive question about the nation’s economy.
“Do you think,” the pollsters asked, “that the U.S. economic system generally favors the wealthy or is fair to most Americans.”
A stunning 64 percent said they believe America’s economy “favors the wealthy.”
Last Tuesday’s exit polling didn’t probe any deeper than that. The polling didn’t, for instance, ask voters about what they feel elected leaders ought to be doing to tilt the nation in a more equitable direction.
But another important piece of polling, released before last week’s elections, did go deeply into that question.
The researchers behind this little-noticed polling, Berkeley political scientists David Broockman and Douglas Ahler, didn’t set out to explore what Americans want done about inequality. They went looking instead for a better understanding of the “moderate voter.”
Pundits, these two researchers believe, tend to mythologize voter “moderation.” Many Americans, the two posit, support public policy positions more “extreme” than the positions that most Democrats and Republicans in Congress support.
To test that proposition, Broockman and Ahler fashioned a national survey that gave voters seven different policy options in 12 contentious policy areas ranging from guns and abortion to labor rights and immigration.