Sunday, September 8, 2013

Millionaires, 1979-92

Last month, I wrote about a Roper survey that asked people if they thought various statements about millionaires were generally true or generally untrue.  The questions were asked twice, once in 1979 and once in 1992, and there were some changes in opinion.  In 1992, more people agreed that:

They worked hard to earn the wealth they have
They play too much and work too little
They favor the Republicans over the Democrats

There was no significant change in opinions on:

They really live no differently from most people, except that they have more money

They are responsible for many of society's ills
They keep the common man from having his proper share of the wealth
They use their wealth mostly to protect their own positions in society
They got where they are by exploiting other people
They feel a responsibility to society because of the wealth they have

Fewer  agreed that:

They are politically conservative
They make illegal contributions to political campaigns
They don't pay their fair share of taxes
They contribute generously to charitable causes
Their spending gives employment to a lot of people
Their investments create jobs and help provide prosperity

The changes weren't uniformly in a positive or negative direction, but I think there is a pattern:  people seem to see millionaires as less involved in the economy and society.  The biggest three changes are declines in belief that they contribute to charity, give employment to lots of people, and help to provide prosperity.  This seems reasonable, given the well-publicized growth of finance.  The popular image of a millionaire may have shifted from an industrialist to a "master of the universe."

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