Nearly Three-Fourths of U.S. Executives Looking to Government for Policies to Reduce Economic Inequality

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – July 8, 2014 – A recent Harris Poll found a strong majority of Americans believing economic inequality in the U.S. today is a problem (79%), with over half believing more specifically that it’s a major problem (54%). New findings further reveal that U.S. executives are even more likely than the general population to see it as a problem overall (88%), albeit less inclined to see it as a major problem (44%).

    These are some of the results of a Harris Poll of 301 corporate executives at companies with revenues of $1 billion or more; all interviews were conducted online in the United States between May 16 and 30, 2014 using the Harris Poll Executive Omnibus research platform.

    Looking at the underlying nature of economic inequality in the United States, majorities of executives agree both that it’s a political issue (81%, up from 72% among the general population) and that it’s a moral one (57%, on par with 59% among Americans overall).

    Nearly three-fourths of executives (73%, up from 66% among U.S. adults overall) believe it’s important that the government introduce policies to reduce inequality in the U.S., with four in ten (41%, comparable to 40% among the general population) identifying it as very important.

    The root of the matter

    When asked how much a series of factors are causes of inequality in the United States today, strong majorities of executives see each as contributing either a great deal or somewhat. Over eight in ten executives see the loss of manufacturing jobs to China, India and other low cost countries (87%, up a bit from 83% among Americans as a whole); the failure of the public school systems to educate many people (85% execs vs. 75% general population); the tax system (84% execs vs. 81% gen. pop.); the influence of big business on government policies (81% execs vs. 80% gen. pop.); the influence of very rich people on government policy (81% execs vs. 78% gen. pop.) and the globalization of the world economy (81% execs, up considerably vs. 67% gen. pop.) as causes of inequality.

    Roughly seven in ten point to restrictions on businesses which prevent them from creating more jobs (73% execs vs. 66% gen. pop.) and the current minimum wage (69% execs vs. 65% gen. pop.) as causes.

    While executives do agree (along with the rest of Americans) that the influence of the very rich is a cause of economic inequality, a majority of execs also feel that this group is more broadly – and unfairly – getting a bad rap, with 56% agreeing that the rich have become scapegoats for everything that’s wrong in the U.S.

    Taxing issues

    While executives are in alignment with the general population in pointing to our tax system as a cause of economic inequality in the United States (84% execs vs. 81% gen. pop.), that doesn’t mean the groups are in synch with one another when it comes to what should change. When asked whether taxes on different groups of Americans – segmented by income – are too high, too low or fair, executives are less likely than the general population to indicate feeling that taxes on the poor are too high (38% execs vs. 46% gen. pop.) but more likely to say taxes on people with incomes of $200,000 per year are too high (39% execs vs. 17% gen. pop.).

    Sentiments are less divided when looking at more outsized income groups, with majorities of execs and the general population alike seeing taxes as being too low currently for people with incomes of $1,000,000 per year (56% execs vs. 58% gen. pop.) and billionaires (63% execs vs. 65% gen. pop.). The majorities of both groups are also in agreement that taxes are too high for the middle class (61% execs vs. 62% gen. pop.).

    Executives agree – in fact, they’re more likely than the general population to agree – that increasing taxes on the very rich would be fair (76% execs vs. 70% gen. pop.), that it would be the right thing to do (78% execs vs. 68% gen. pop.) and that it would help reduce the budget deficit (75% execs vs. 63% gen. pop.). However, it’s worth noting that nearly half of executives also agree that increasing taxes on the very rich would hurt the economy because these are the very rich are the ones who create jobs (45% execs vs. 35% gen. pop.).

    Voting issues

    Not long ago a few very rich individuals made some very public and controversial remarks suggesting that voting rights, or the degree to which votes count, should be tied in some way to taxes. While majorities of both executives and the general population disagree with various forms of this concept, it’s worth noting that the minority support such concepts do receive is stronger among the executives segment than among their general population counterparts.

    Most prominently, nearly half of executives (46%) and nearly four in ten U.S. adults overall (37%) agree that the right to vote should be reserved for those who pay taxes. Although the degree to which a person’s vote counts in elections being tied to taxes in some way is a concept receiving only minority support among both executives and Americans overall, it’s noteworthy that far stronger minorities of executives agree that the amount one pays in taxes (28% execs vs. 14% gen. pop.) or the rate at which one is taxed (27% execs vs. 14% gen. pop.) should impact the relative power of one’s vote.

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    TABLE 1

    ECONOMIC INEQUALITY A PROBLEM OR NOT

    Do you think that economic inequality in the U.S. today is a major problem, a minor problem or not a problem at all?

    Base: U.S. adults (general population) & U.S. executives

    U.S. Adults (General Population)

    U.S. Executives

    %

    %

    Is a problem (NET)

    79

    88

    Major problem

    54

    44

    Minor problem

    25

    44

    Not a problem at all

    13

    12

    Not at all sure

    8

    1

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

    TABLE 2

    IMPORTANCE OF GOVERNMENT INTRODUCING POLICIES TO REDUCE INEQUALITY

    How important do you think it is that the government introduce policies to reduce inequality in the U.S.?

    Base: U.S. adults (general population) & U.S. executives

    U.S. Adults (General Population)

    U.S. Executives

    %

    %

    Important (NET)

    66

    73

    Very important

    40

    41

    Somewhat important

    27

    32

    Not important (NET)

    25

    26

    Not very important

    10

    14

    Not important at all

    15

    11

    Not at all sure

    8

    1

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

    TABLE 3

    CAUSES OF INEQUALITY

    How much do you think that each of the following is a cause of inequality in the U.S. today?

    Base: U.S. adults (general population) & U.S. executives

    Great deal/ Somewhat (NET)

    Not very much/Not at all (NET)

    Not at all sure

    Gen Pop

    Execs

    Gen Pop

    Execs

    Gen Pop

    Execs

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    The loss of manufacturing jobs to China, India and other low cost countries

    83

    87

    10

    12

    7

    1

    The failure of the public school systems to educate many people

    75

    85

    19

    14

    6

    1

    The tax system

    81

    84

    13

    15

    6

    1

    The influence of big business on government policies

    80

    81

    13

    18

    7

    1

    The influence of very rich people on government policy

    78

    81

    15

    18

    7

    1

    Globalization of the world economy

    67

    81

    20

    18

    13

    1

    Restrictions on businesses which prevent them from creating more jobs

    66

    73

    26

    25

    8

    2

    The current minimum wage rate

    65

    69

    30

    31

    5

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; — indicates no selections for this response

    TABLE 4

    TAXES TOO HIGH OR TOO LOW

    Do you think that taxes on each of the following groups of people are currently fair, or are they too high or low?

    Base: U.S. adults (general population) & U.S. executives

    Too high

    Fair

    Too low

    Not at all sure

    Gen Pop

    Execs

    Gen Pop

    Execs

    Gen Pop

    Execs

    Gen Pop

    Execs

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Poor people

    46

    38

    35

    49

    8

    9

    11

    3

    The middle class

    62

    61

    28

    38

    2

    1

    7

    People with incomes of $200,000 per year

    17

    39

    39

    42

    31

    17

    13

    2

    People with incomes of $1,000,000 per year

    11

    20

    19

    22

    58

    56

    12

    2

    Billionaires

    9

    13

    14

    20

    65

    63

    11

    3

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; — indicates no selections for this response

    TABLE 5

    INCREASING TAXES ON THE VERY RICH

    How much do you agree or disagree that increasing taxes on the very rich wouldÉ

    Base: U.S. adults (general population) & U.S. executives

    Agree (NET)

    Disagree (NET)

    Not at all sure

    Gen Pop

    Execs

    Gen Pop

    Execs

    Gen Pop

    Execs

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Be fair

    70

    76

    24

    23

    6

    1

    Be the right thing to do

    68

    78

    24

    21

    7

    1

    Help reduce the budget deficit

    63

    75

    27

    22

    10

    3

    Hurt the economy because they are the ones who create jobs

    35

    45

    56

    53

    8

    2

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

    TABLE 6

    AGREE/DISAGREE WITH INEQUALITY & TAX STATEMENTS

    How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. adults (general population) & U.S. executives

    Agree (NET)

    Disagree (NET)

    Gen Pop

    Execs

    Gen Pop

    Execs

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Economic inequality in the U.S. is a political issue.

    72

    81

    28

    19

    Economic inequality in the U.S. is a moral issue.

    59

    57

    41

    43

    The rich have become scapegoats for everything that’s wrong in the U.S.

    47

    56

    53

    44

    The right to vote should be reserved for those who pay taxes.

    37

    46

    63

    54

    How much a person’s vote counts in elections should be measured by how much they pay in taxes.

    14

    28

    86

    72

    How much a person’s vote counts in elections should be measured by the rate at which they’re taxed.

    14

    27

    86

    73

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; — indicates no selections for this response

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 16 and 30, 2014 among 301 corporate executives at companies with revenues of $1 billion or more and utilized the Harris Poll Executive Omnibus research platform. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

    Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

    The Harris Poll¨ #64, July 8, 2014

    By Larry Shannon-Missal, Manager, Harris Poll Content

    About Nielsen & The Harris Poll

    On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.