A new report from the liberal Brookings Institute finds that “despite the large increases in economic inequality since 1970”, American survey respondents exhibit no increase in support for redistribution. This holds true even for the two groups who have historically been most reliant on redistribution: the elderly and black Americans.
The report expresses surprise by the results, as does the Washington Post. As the Post‘s Max Ehrenfreund says,
The polling data challenges the common-sense idea that voters support policies that are in their material interest, the authors write. Yet there don’t seem to be any good explanations for the trends, which are shown in the chart above.
It’s not that blacks or the elderly on the whole are becoming wealthier and thus less dependent on government assistance. Black and elderly people were just as likely to change their views on the question whether they were rich or poor. Nor are members of these groups becoming more conservative on other questions.
Notice the pattern of thought embedded in those two paragraphs: