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Most Americans Don't Believe Nation Is Economically Divided Most Americans Don't Believe Nation Is Economically Divided

Most Americans Don't Believe Nation Is Economically Divided

by Cord Jefferson
October 3, 2011


For weeks now, people mobilized by all types of progressive organizations have banded together for the Occupy Wall Street protests. Bolstered and nourished by food, beverage, and bedding donations from outside sympathizers, the increasingly large group of people clogging the world's most infamous economic center only seems to be growing angrier and more sure of their main point: that the richest 1 percent of America has for too long let the other 99 percent desiccate.

But while the so-called 99 Percenters take it to the streets, a new study from the Pew Research Institute says most Americans are not on their side. Despite the fact that all signs suggest rich people in the United States are getting vastly wealthier than everyone else, a majority still doesn't believe there's an economic divide between "haves" and "have-nots."

"The percentage of Americans who see society as divided between haves and have-nots declined shortly after Barack Obama took office, but has rebounded since," says the Pew study. "In April 2009, just 35% said the nation was divided economically, down from 44% in October 2008. The number saying the nation is economically divided increased to 42% a year later and has changed little since then (45% currently)." By contrast, 52 percent of Americans say they disagree with the idea that America can be divided between haves and have-nots. Most telling is that when asked to choose in what group they belong, 48 percent of people said they were a have, while only 34 percent said they were a have-not. (In actuality, of course, the richest 20 percent of the people in the United States control nearly 85 percent of the country's wealth.)

Besides the rich getting richer, the poor are also getting much poorer. Fifteen percent of Americans now collect food stamps, and white Americans now have 20 times the wealth that black Americans do. If these aren't signs that this nation clearly has haves and have-nots, we shudder to think what it will take to make that point clear: bread lines? People starving in the streets? Or perhaps deadly riots of our own similar to London's?

Photo via (cc) Flickr user david_shankbone

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