DAVID GREENE, HOST:
They are called the 1% - the richest of the rich. And as income and wealth inequality have grown significantly in this country, they've become more of a political, economic and social focus. We have new poll out today that breaks down people's views on a number of topics by income, and it specifically looks at the 1%, comparing them to the views of everyone else. This telephone poll was conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. And let's talk about the poll with NPR political reporter Danielle Kurtzleben. Hi, Danielle.
DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hey, David.
GREENE: So the poll covers a number of issues, but I want to hear about how it isolates the views of the 1%. What happened here?
KURTZLEBEN: Right. So this is a really unique poll we have here because, usually, in a poll, we take a sample, we ask people questions, but that sample of people is usually not big enough to really drill down and see what a tiny subgroup, really, like the 1%, thinks. By definition, the 1% is tiny. So...
KURTZLEBEN: Right. And the 1% is people earning at least somewhere in the ballpark of $500,000 a year or more - so pretty rich people. This poll allows us to see how the views of those highest earners differ from people of other income levels because we have enough of them in this poll to look at this.
GREENE: Well, how big are the differences? I mean, do people who are making that kind of money have really different views?
KURTZLEBEN: On some really important topics, yes. Now, I want to start here with something that was pretty similar across the board. On income inequality itself, a majority of respondents overall say it's a very or somewhat serious problem - so not too much of a difference there by income.
But then, when you ask people what should be done about it, there you see a bigger gap. Forty-five percent of 1-percenters say it should be a very or a somewhat important priority for the president and Congress to reduce inequality between the rich and the poor. That increases as you move down the income spectrum. Two-thirds of the lowest earners said that it should be a priority - so a significant difference there. Now, that's perhaps not surprising, but it's interesting to be able to actually see with some actual data.
GREENE: Yeah. No, I totally agree. Well, what else stood out to you as you went through this?
KURTZLEBEN: So what really stood out to me was when you drill down to party and then break it down by incomes, there you have some really interesting gaps by political affiliation and by income. So just 15% of Republicans who are the very highest earners in that 1%, just 15% of those say the government should make it a priority to make sure everyone has health insurance, but then roughly three times as many, about half of the lowest-income Republicans, say it should be a priority.
So health care has obviously been this crucial issue, and here there is this big divide among actual Republican voters. Now, interestingly, when you look at Democrats, they're pretty consistent across incomes. About 9 in 10, give or take - 9 in 10 Democrats say universal health coverage should be a priority, regardless of income.
GREENE: So it sounds like party affiliation doesn't necessarily work the same way when it comes to this smaller subset of Americans.
KURTZLEBEN: Right. It doesn't, necessarily, if you're breaking it down by income. Now, then again, there are some things that, of course, separate the two parties no matter what, regardless of whether you're looking at income or not. For example, clear majorities of Democrats say they believe graduating from college is essential or very important to being economically successful. Then, if you look at Republicans, the numbers are much, much lower - the numbers for them is about 40%. That's across income.
So there is a pretty big divide there, and it's really issue-dependent. We see the wealthiest Republicans differ from other Republicans on some issues, while Democrats appear to be more aligned, at least on some of these pocketbook issues. But, really, on other issues you see this clear worldview difference, philosophy difference, even cultural difference between the parties.
GREENE: Interesting stuff. NPR political reporter Danielle Kurtzleben talking about this new poll this morning. Thanks, Danielle.
KURTZLEBEN: Thank you.
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