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Americans Say the Rich Are More Likely to Be Greedy and Dishonest: Pew Research Poll

Morgan Korn

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Income inequality has become a familiar theme in this presidential election and the majority of Americans believe the growing wealth divide is "a bad thing" for the country, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

Kim Parker, an associate director at the Center and lead author of the report, polled more than 2,500 Americans last month about tax rates, social class and partisan biases. She found that wealthy Americans may be vilified by their societal peers but they're also viewed as more intelligent and hardworking. Parker joined The Daily Ticker to discuss the findings and what they imply about the state of America today.

America's View of The Rich

The Pew report found that many Americans view the rich differently than other people. An overwhelming majority of Americans (those who describe themselves as either middle-or-lower income) say that they admire people who get rich by working hard but they also view the rich as greedier and less honest, according to the survey.

Most Americans defined "wealthy" as an annual income of at least $100,000 for a family of four. The median amount was $150,000 for all respondents and the higher number could be attributed to one's demographic region, current lifestyle and income, according to the report. Forty-nine percent of respondents described themselves as middle class; 32 percent labeled themselves as lower-middle to lower-income class and 17 percent characterized themselves as upper or upper-middle class.

America's View on Taxes

Fifty-eight percent of poll respondents say the rich pay too little in taxes. That number reflects the same attitude as 52 percent of upper or upper-middle class Americans polled. Thirty-seven percent of respondents say lower-income Americans pay too much in taxes and 34 percent believe lower-income Americans pay their fair share. Twenty percent of adults in the survey say lower-income individuals pay too little in taxes.

America's View on Democrats vs. Republicans

The U.S. tax system has been one of the most controversial and polarizing themes in the election cycle and both presidential candidates have offered their own solutions for reforming the byzantine tax code.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's plan would cut taxes across all income classes and President Barack Obama's proposal aims to increase taxes on rich Americans. The Pew survey found that 63 percent of respondents say that the GOP favors the wealthy over the middle class and the poor and 71 percent believe Romney, if elected president, would "be good" for wealthy people. Sixty percent of respondents said Obama's policies would help the poor and 37 percent believe the wealthy would gain an advantage under Obama.

When the responses were tallied based on political affiliation, 55 percent of Republicans say the GOP favors the middle class compared to 26 percent who say their party caters to the rich. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats believe their party tilts toward the middle class and just six percent say it favors the rich.