Since the 99 Percent Movement protests began across the country, multiple Republican lawmakers and strategists have announced their fear of what they claim are the movement’s attacks on capitalism and America’s free market economy. The protests and Democratic policies, some Republicans have claimed, represent a form of class warfare against the rich. And many have predicted that supporting the movement will come back to haunt Democrats.
But a new poll from the Pew Research Center found that when asked directly about the belief that sparked the 99 Percent Movement — that the rich have too much power and influence in this country — Americans of all political stripes largely agree. Wide majorities of Democrats, independents, and even Republicans, in fact, think the rich are too powerful, and a majority also thinks our economic system unfairly favors the wealthy, as the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent highlighted:
Roughly three-quarters of the public (77%) say that they think there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and large corporations in the United States. In a 1941 Gallup poll, six-in-ten (60%) Americans expressed this view. About nine-in-ten (91%) Democrats and eight-in-ten (80%) of independents assert that power is too concentrated among the rich and large corporations, but this view is shared by a much narrower majority (53%) of Republicans.
Reflecting a parallel sentiment, 61% of Americans now say the economic system in this country unfairly favors the wealthy and just 36% say the system is generally fair to most Americans. About three-quarters (76%) of Democrats and 61% of independents say the economic system is tilted in favor of the wealthy; a majority (58%) of Republicans say that the system is generally fair to most Americans.
In addition, Americans also have a skeptical view of Wall Street. A slim majority — 51 percent — thinks Wall Street hurts the economy more than it helps, including 60 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents. Just 36 percent think Wall Street helps more than it hurts.
Republican lawmakers who have decried the movement may be shocked by these numbers. But given that their policies have increased prosperity for the 1 percent while driving half of Americans into either poverty or low-income status, they probably shouldn’t be.