Nearly half of all Americans say President Obama treats society’s “haves” and “have-nots” about equally, perhaps blunting Republican criticism that he is engaged in “class warfare.” Still, nearly three in 10 see the president as overly favoring the “have-nots,” according to a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll. Half as many see the president as favoring the “haves.”
Public opinion about Republicans is a bit harsher: almost half say Republicans in Congress are doing more to help the haves, with fewer -- under a third -- saying the GOP treats both sides of the divide about equally.
Yet, despite worsening economic conditions -- and a growing gap between rich and poor -- fewer than half of all Americans, 45 percent, see society as fundamentally divided between haves and have-nots. A slim 52 percent majority say it is not, though that number has dropped significantly since the early days of the Obama administration.
When asked to classify themselves, 48 percent of poll respondents identify among the haves and 34 percent among the have-nots. Current opinions on these questions are close to their long term trends.
Nearly three-quarters of African Americans say society is divided, compared with 40 percent of whites. And more than half of African Americans identify as being among the have-nots. Most whites identify as being among the haves.
Despite fresh proposals to raise taxes on millionaires and allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, the percentage of Americans seeing Obama as favoring the haves has bumped higher since 2009, from 8 to 15 percent. The number saying he is partial toward the have-nots is unchanged.
Slightly fewer now say Obama is helping these groups “about the same” than two years ago, with the biggest shift among African Americans. In 2009, 75 percent of African Americans said Obama was treating groups equally; that’s now down to 49 percent. But the movement is toward helping the have-nots, the group which most Africans Americans identify.
Republicans are more apt than others to see Obama helping the have-nots. About four in 10 see this happening, with 16 percent seeing him helping the haves and 31 percent treating both equally. A 46 percent plurality of independents see Obama helping both.
Judgment about the Republicans in Congress is more clear cut, with 47 percent overall seeing them helping the haves; a slender 7 percent the have-nots. That’s very similar to views of former presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan in Pew and Gallup polls.
More than seven in 10 Democrats say Republicans are biased toward the haves. But 60 percent of Republicans say their own party is treating each group about equally. More independents, 46 percent, say the GOP is preferring the haves, while 34 percent say they treat haves and have-nots equally.