What You Need to Know
I. ECONOMIC POLICY ISSUES
There is broad public support for addressing economic inequality through policies aimed at both the top and bottom of the economic spectrum: increasing the minimum wage to $10 an hour, and increasing the tax rate on Americans earning more than $1 million year.
- The Minimum Wage: Overall, two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans favor increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.00 an hour. Democrats overwhelmingly (82 percent) favor raising the minimum wage, as do two-thirds of Independents. A slim majority (52 percent) of Republicans also approve of an increase in the minimum wage. In contrast, only about 4-in-10 (41 percent) Americans who identify with the Tea Party favor raising the minimum wage; a majority (56 percent) of Tea Party members oppose it. Majorities of every major religious group support raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.00 an hour. [PRRI, American Values Survey, September 2011]
- The “Buffett Rule”: Seven-in-ten (70 percent) Americans support increasing the tax rate on Americans earning more than $1 million per year, compared to more than 1-in-4 (27 percent) who are opposed. There are stark political divisions. Strong majorities of Democrats (85 percent) and Independents (70 percent) support increasing the tax rate on Americans earning more than $1 million a year, and a slim majority of Republicans (52 percent) also support this increase. Only 4-in-10 (40 percent) Tea Party members favor the Buffet Rule; 59% oppose it. Majorities of every major religious group also support increasing the tax rate on Americans making more than $1 million per year. [PRRI, American Values Survey, September 2011]
- Taxing Wealthier Americans: More than 6-in-10 (61 percent) Americans favor increasing the tax rate on Americans earning more than $250,000 a year, while more than one-third (36 percent) are opposed. [PRRI, PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, November 2011; PRRI, American Values Survey, September 2011]
III. THE AMERICAN DREAM
A majority (53 percent) of Americans believe the American Dream—that if you work hard, you’ll get ahead—still holds true today. More than 4-in-10 (42 percent) say it once held true, but not anymore, while 4 percent say the American Dream never held true. [PRRI, PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, November 2011]
V. APPROACHES TO CUTTING THE DEFICIT
When considering measures that would help reduce the nation’s budget deficit, Americans favor increasing taxes on Americans making at least $250,000 per year (65 percent) and eliminating tax breaks for large corporations (54 percent). There is less support for cutting federal funding for cutting federal funding for social programs that help the poor (30 percent), and cutting funding for the military (29 percent) as ways to reduce the deficit. [PRRI, Post-Election American Values Survey, November 2012]
VI. PERSPECTIVES ON THE ROLE OF THE SOCIAL SAFETY NET
Most Americans agree about the importance of a social safety net, but are divided about whether people who use such programs are genuinely in need of help or are taking advantage of the system.
- By a margin of nearly 2-to-1, Americans agree that government policies aimed at helping the poor serve as a crucial safety net (63%), rather than creating a culture of dependency where people are provided with too many handouts (32%).
- However, Americans are divided on whether most people who receive welfare payments are genuinely in need of help (44%) or are taking advantage of the system (46%). [PRRI, Pre-Election American Values Survey, October 2012]
Public Religion Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.