The controversy over the ability of billionaires in America is pushed by critics who see them as rapacious tax cheats and by defenders who see them as embodiments of the American dream.
However what do common folks suppose?
A brand new, unique ballot from Vox and Knowledge for Progress pulls again the curtain on how Individuals really feel in regards to the exploding web price of billionaires throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, their record-setting philanthropy as a technique to handle inequality, and whether or not they have an excessive amount of political energy within the nation’s elections. The ballot was fielded in February and surveyed doubtless voters.
The information means that gone are the times when the ultra-wealthy may depend on widespread admiration as job creators, titans of business, and thought leaders. Now they confront a skeptical public, formed partially by a 12 months of the pandemic that has entrenched their energy.
On the identical time, Individuals reject lots of the farthest-left critiques of billionaires and their affect on American life. You’ll be able to learn the complete outcomes right here, and these are a few of the highlights.
How Individuals really feel about billionaires throughout the pandemic
The pandemic has exacerbated wealth inequality, and lots of Individuals are resentful of the truth that whereas they struggled, the rich made vital positive factors.
By a large hole — 72 p.c to 19 p.c — voters polled say it was unfair that billionaires obtained wealthier throughout the pandemic. That conclusion is shared throughout all racial, partisan, socioeconomic, and different demographic teams.
This unease is mirrored in questions that talk to Individuals’ extra generalized opinions in regards to the prime 1 p.c, which have been usually shared throughout the political spectrum. Solely 23 p.c of these polled mentioned they take into account billionaires to be good function fashions for the nation, whereas 65 p.c mentioned they don’t.
Equally, solely 36 p.c mentioned that they had usually optimistic emotions about billionaires, versus 49 p.c who mentioned they didn’t. Black Individuals mentioned that they had rather more optimistic emotions about billionaires than did members of different racial subgroups: 45 p.c mentioned they felt positively, whereas solely 39 p.c mentioned they felt negatively. Democrats have been additionally extra more likely to be anti-billionaire than Republicans.
And but Individuals are broadly dismissive of some progressive rhetoric about one thing being basically incorrect with a society that options billionaires. Round 82 p.c say they agree with the assertion that folks ought to be allowed to change into billionaires — equally, 68 p.c say they disagree that it’s immoral for a society to permit folks to change into billionaires.
How Individuals really feel about billionaire philanthropy
Voters give billionaires optimistic marks with regards to their philanthropy. When requested whether or not billionaires do a great job at giving freely their cash by means of philanthropy, 47 p.c say they agree; solely 33 p.c say they don’t.
Nonetheless, they don’t suppose philanthropy is a enough resolution to resolve Individuals’ inequality issues. When requested which is a greater repair for the nation’s issues throughout the pandemic — elevate taxes or search extra charity from the rich — 52 p.c selected the previous and 38 p.c indicated the latter.
How Individuals really feel about Invoice Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg
4 tech billionaires have change into a few of the world’s most influential folks throughout the pandemic, at heart stage in America like by no means earlier than. Vox requested voters how they felt about these more and more unavoidable figures.
Elon Musk is the most well-liked of the tech billionaires polled, with 50 p.c saying that they had a positive opinion of the Tesla founder, presently the world’s second-richest particular person. Musk is a bipartisan determine: 52 p.c of Democrats have a positive opinion (versus 22 p.c unfavorable), and 48 p.c of Republicans maintain a positive opinion (versus 25 p.c unfavorable.) Musk is particularly common with males: A staggering 66 p.c of males view him favorably (versus 21 p.c unfavorably).
Invoice Gates, who has performed a quasi-governmental function throughout the pandemic from his perch and his eponymous basis, can be considered very favorably within the throes of the disaster — 55 p.c of respondents mentioned they felt this fashion versus 35 p.c who felt in a different way. Gates is particularly common with Democrats, who’re followers by a 55-percentage level margin.
Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, each lightning rods in their very own methods, are much less common figures. Nearly as many individuals view Bezos unfavorably as view him favorably. And Zuckerberg himself is below water by a major margin; 54 p.c say they’ve an unfavorable opinion, together with 64 p.c of Republicans.
How Individuals really feel about billionaires’ political energy
What unites Individuals is a perception that billionaires have an excessive amount of affect within the political system. Amongst these polled, 61 p.c say they really feel that these ultra-wealthy folks had an excessive amount of affect within the 2020 election (62 p.c of Republicans agreed with this assertion, as did 55 p.c of Democrats).
Whether or not Joe Biden himself was too near this billionaire class, predictably, depends upon partisanship. Solely 20 p.c of Democrats say that’s the case whereas 72 p.c of Republicans say so.
However, regardless of worrying about these billionaires’ energy, American voters don’t suppose they pose any type of existential danger. Requested if billionaires are a risk to democracy, solely 28 p.c mentioned they agreed, whereas 54 p.c mentioned they disagreed.