Economic Opportunity and Inequality: A Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos Hidden Common Ground Survey
Americans across the political spectrum support many measures to create good jobs and increase opportunity. These include infrastructure investments, retraining programs, affordable childcare, raising the minimum wage, and incentives for businesses to keep jobs in the U.S.
- An 80% majority of Americans supports creating more good jobs by upgrading infrastructure, including nearly equal majorities of Republicans (83%), Democrats (82%), and Independents (76%).
- A strong majority (80%) also supports retraining programs that would give adults the skills to compete for quality jobs, including similar majorities of Republicans (86%), Democrats (82%), and Independents (78%).
- Three-quarters of Americans (77%) support making affordable, high-quality childcare available to all families, including most Republicans (71%), Democrats (86%), and Independent (75%).
- Most Americans (72%) support raising the minimum wage, including most Republicans (62%), Democrats (87%) and Independents (69%). In a Hidden Common Ground survey fielded in February 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic struck, 66% of Americans supported raising the minimum wage, including only 48% of Republicans, 80% of Democrats and 54% of Independents.
- Most Americans (80%) support incentives for businesses to bring overseas jobs back to the U.S., including 88% of Republicans, 82% of Democrats and 70% of Independents.
- Three-quarters of Americans support funding research in technology, science and green energy, including 71% of Republican, 83% of Democrats and 71% of Independents.
- Providing tax breaks to businesses that create good quality jobs in communities that need them attracts support from 71% of Americans, including 84% of Republicans, 68% of Democrats and 59% of Independents.
- There is cross-partisan support for two additional measures to increase economic opportunity and well-being, although that consensus is less robust than for the above:
- Making it easier to unionize: 62% of Americans overall support making unionization easier, including about three-quarters of Democrats and about half each of Republicans and Independents.
- Decreasing regulation of businesses that create good jobs: 55% of Americans overall support this, including 71% of Republicans, a 49% plurality of Democrats and a 45% plurality of Independents.
Strong cross-partisan majorities believe that policies to help small businesses would make their communities thrive economically – much more so than help for big businesses would. Cross-partisan majorities also believe that strong social capital, affordable housing, and anti-discrimination policies would help their communities build a strong economy that gives everyone the chance to succeed.
- Most Americans (78%) say that in their community, policies that help small businesses thrive would make a difference in building a strong economy and giving everyone a chance to succeed. This includes similar majorities of Republicans (83%), Democrats (82%) and Independents (71%). Fewer Americans (44%) say that help for big businesses would make a difference in their community.
- Most Americans (76%) also believe that residents having strong connections with each other would make a difference in their community’s economy, including comparable majorities of Republicans (78%), Democrats (80%) and Independents (67%).
- Creating more affordable housing for low-and-middle-income families also would make a difference in their community according to 69% of Americans, including most Democrats (82%) and more modest majorities of Republicans (63%) and Independents (60%).
- For most Americans (68%), strong anti-discrimination policies would make a difference to their community economically. This includes most Democrats (81%) and modest majorities of Republicans (61%) and Independents (54%). Somewhat more Black Americans (76%) see strong anti-discrimination policies as a way to make their communities thrive economically than white (67%) or Latino (66%) Americans.
- Two-thirds of Americans (67%) believe that having a population with diverse backgrounds, skills and ideas would have positive economic impacts in their community, including most Republicans (64%) and Democrats (77%) and 58% of Independents. Strong majorities of Black, white and Latino Americans also say this type of diversity would help their communities thrive.
- Universal basic income is likely a relatively new idea to many Americans. Just over half of Americans (56%) say providing a monthly $1000 payment to each citizen every month, whether they are employed or not, would make a difference in their community economically. Support for a universal basic income is higher among Democrats (72%) than Republicans (46%) or Independents (49%).
Most Americans believe it is okay for wealthy people to get wealthier as long as everyone has opportunities to succeed. But most Americans also believe that the economy is rigged to benefit the rich and powerful – including majorities of Democrats and Independents and a plurality of Republicans.
- Overall, 59% of Americans somewhat or strongly agree that the economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful. While this is a majority sentiment among Democrats (78%) and Independents (60%), among Republicans it is a plurality sentiment with a large number who have no distinct opinion (40% of Republicans agree, 35% disagree and 22% neither agree or disagree). Differences by race in these and other views about economic inequality are less pronounced.
- A 59% majority of Americans also think that it is okay for wealthy people to get wealthier as long as everyone else also has a good chance to succeed. This is a more widely-held view among Republicans (71%) than Independents (59%) or Democrats (52%).
- Half of Americans agree somewhat or strongly that if you work hard, you will succeed no matter what. More Republicans (66%) believe this than Democrats (41%) or Independents (47%).
- Americans are split in their views on how the economy worked before the coronavirus pandemic: 44% say it worked well for most or all Americans while 48% say it worked well for just some or only a few Americans. Most Republicans (71%) say that before the pandemic the economy worked well for all or most Americans, but just 26% of Democrats and 41% of Independents share that assessment.
Democrats are more concerned about racial inequality than Republicans. About a third of Americans support reparations for Black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved, including about half of Democrats and about three-quarters of Black Americans.
- Americans are divided over whether racial discrimination in their community makes it more difficult for people of color to succeed: 43% of Americans somewhat or strongly agree that racial discrimination makes success more difficult, while 47% somewhat or strongly disagree.
- Many more Democrats (60%) agree that racial discrimination makes it more difficult for people of color to succeed, compared with Republicans (28%) and Independents (30%). Many more Black Americans (67%) also think racial discrimination is a barrier to success, compared to Latino Americans (56%) and white Americans (35%).
- Despite those differences of opinion on whether racial discrimination makes it more difficult for people of color to succeed, across lines of partisanship and race most Americans (68%) say strong anti-discrimination policies would make a positive difference to their community economically. This includes majorities of Democrats (81%), Republicans (61%) and Independents (54%), as well as majorities of white Americans (67%), Black Americans (76%), and Latino Americans (66%).
- While long a topic of discussion among people working toward racial justice, reparations is a relatively new idea for most Americans. Thirty-three percent of Americans say they somewhat or strongly agree that Black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved deserve financial compensation from the federal government. Fifty-seven percent of Americans somewhat or strongly disagree and 10% say they do not know.
- About half of Democrats (52%) support reparations, compared with only 16% of Republicans and 15% of Independents. Most Black Americans (73%) support reparations, compared with 22% of white Americans and 44% of Latino Americans.
These are the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between August 28-31, 2020 on behalf of Public Agenda and USA TODAY. For this survey, a sample of 1,114 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points for all respondents.