A new Pew Research Center/USA Today poll echoes Quinnipiac in finding that voters want to see the minimum wage increased and unemployment aid extended; once again, even Republicans support raising the minimum wage, 53 percent to 43 percent. Republicans are just about exactly flipped on unemployment aid: 43 percent want to see it extended while 54 percent don't. Democrats are overwhelmingly in favor of both policies, as are strong majorities of independents.
But the survey also highlights a fundamental difference in how Republicans and Democrats see economic inequality and poverty: Republicans actually believe that rich people are rich because they worked harder and poor people are poor because they didn't work hard enough:
A child raised in the bottom fifth of the income scale through much of the southern United States has around a 5 percent chance of rising to the top fifth
—4 percent in Atlanta and 4.3 percent in Charlotte—while a low-income child has a 9.6 percent chance of rising in Los Angeles and 11.2 percent in San Francisco. Do Republicans think poor kids in California are just twice as likely to be hardworking as poor kids in Georgia and North Carolina? Or might there be something else going on? Not to mention, even an 11.2 percent chance of going from low-income to high-income is pretty damn low if what we're looking at is an issue of merit. Those numbers are in line with Pew's earlier finding that 43 percent of Americans born in the bottom fifth of the income ladder never move up, and a full 70 percent never reach the middle
. The "this is about advantages and inequality, not individual merit" hypothesis gains strength when you learn that rich kids with below-average test scores are more likely to graduate from college
than poor kids with above-average test scores.
Rich people are rich because they worked harder, my ass. This is a convenient belief if you're wealthy, but in the vast majority of cases, reality it is not. And on that mistaken—and often self-interested—belief rests a long list of Republican policy positions that are increasing inequality and poverty, year by year by year.