Americans have grown more concerned about the gap between rich and poor. Support for the social safety net has grown too, while our military appetite has shrunk, according to a recent Pew survey of public opinion.
More Americans agree with the assessment that “today it’s really true that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer.” Today, 73% feel that way, up from 65% five years ago.
It follows that more of us believe the government should take care of people who can’t take care of themselves. Fifty-four percent of Americans say the government should help more needy people, even if it adds to the national debt, compared to just 41 percent in 1994.
Just five years ago, 43 percent of of us identified as Republicans, and same for Democrats. Now 35 percent identify as Republicans, and half the country as Democrats.
Also, racism and homophobia are both down. More than 83 percent agree that “it’s all right for blacks and whites to date,” up six percentage points since 2003 and 13 points from 10 years ago. The number of people who believe that school boards should have the right to fire gay teachers is at 28 percent, down from 51 percent in 1987.
The MoJo summary of all of the above: Americans are getting in touch with reality.
But the sad part may be that “the public is losing confidence in itself.” The percent agreeing that Americans “can always find a way to solve our problems” has dropped 16 points in five years. Americans feel more and more estranged from their government. Barely a third would agree that “most elected officials care what people like me think,” a 10-point drop since 2002. Saddest of all, young people, who have the rosiest view of government, are the least interested in voting or other political participation.