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There can be little doubt that the wealthiest Americans exert more political influence than the less affluent do. But there has been little systematic evidence about precisely what sorts of public policies the wealthy want government to pursue, or how the policy preferences of wealthy Americans resemble or differ from the preferences of ordinary citizens.
Data from our recently completed SESA (Survey of Economically Successful Americans and the Common Good) pilot study indicate that the top 1% or so of U.S. wealth-holders differ rather sharply from the American public over a number of important policies concerning taxation, economic regulation, and especially social welfare programs.
The more rarified, top 1/10th of 1% or so of wealth-holders (people with $40 million or more in net worth) appear on the average to hold still more conservative views – views that are even more distinct from those of the general public.
We suggest that these distinctive policy preferences may help account for why several types of public policies in the United States appear to deviate markedly from what the average U.S. citizen wants government to do. We discuss the implications of our findings for democratic theory.
Findings begin on page 8.
Benjamin I. Page
Larry M. Bartels
For presentation at the annual meetings of the American Political Science Association,
Seattle, Washington, Aug. 31-Sept. 4, 2011 REVISED 9/29/11