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Americans growing increasingly aware of class conflict

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 12th, 2012
Catholic Online (

The scruffy brigades of the Occupy Wall Street movement - composed of the homeless, activists and just plain disgruntled American public - have made a significant impact on the national psyche. According to recent polls, Americans are seeing an increasing divide among the population rich and poor, immigrant and native, black and white. The ongoing recession may have also magnified class differences as income inequality has risen.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In 2009, 47 percent of those polled said there were "very strong" or "strong" conflicts between the rich and poor. In 2011, 66 percent joined that perception.

Significantly more Americans now see "very strong" or "strong" class conflict between the rich and poor, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

This divide has certainly been seen politically. Democrats along with President Barack Obama have spoken out about income inequality.

"Now, this kind of inequality -- a level that we haven't seen since the Great Depression -- hurts us all," Obama said in a December speech in Kansas. GOP front-runner Mitt Romney has in turn charged Obama with promulgating the "politics of envy." Romney has said that discussions over the distribution of wealth were "fine" to talk about "in quiet rooms in discussions about tax policy."

The topic of income inequality in the mass media has also risen significantly since the start of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The survey also found that whites had significantly larger increases in perception of class conflict than blacks and Hispanics, rising to 65 percent from 43 percent in 2009. Seventy-four percent of blacks and 61 percent of Hispanics see class conflicts, increasing by single digits from 2009.

The perception of class conflict has grown. Thirty percent see "very strong conflicts," which has doubled from 2009, the largest such increase since the question was first asked in 1987.

Grievances against the wealthy haven't increased, with 46 percent saying that rich people "are wealthy mainly because they know the right people or were born into wealthy families," and 43 percent saying they are wealthy because "of their own hard work, ambition or education."

Suffering the highest levels of unemployment, the nation's young - such as high school and college graduates -- see class conflict significantly more than older people, with 71 percent of people aged 18 to 34 seeing "very strong" or "strong" class conflicts while just 55 percent of people over 65 see them.

Republicans see class conflict less than Democrats and independents, with GOP leaders have dismissed calls to raise taxes on the wealthy, calling it "class warfare." Still, 55 percent of Republicans see "strong" or "very strong" class conflicts in comparison to 73 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents.

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