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PolitiFact: Public seeks to even wealth distribution

The statement

"Nearly 6 out of 10 believe that money and wealth should be more evenly distributed among a larger percentage of the people in the U.S."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in a tweet

The ruling

In a recent tweet, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., reiterated one of his most frequent themes — income inequality in the United States.

"Nearly 6 out of 10 believe that money and wealth should be more evenly distributed among a larger percentage of the people in the U.S.," Sanders tweeted.

We wondered: Is the percentage really that high?

Actually, it is — and it hasn't changed much for almost three decades.

The Gallup polling organization has been asking the following question periodically since 1985: "Do you feel that the distribution of money and wealth in this country today is fair, or do you feel that the money and wealth in this country should be more evenly distributed among a larger percentage of the people?"

The most recent data comes from a Gallup survey taken April 4-7. The result: 59 percent agreed that "the money and wealth in this country should be more evenly distributed among a larger percentage of the people," while 33 percent said the distribution was fair. The poll had a margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points.

Gallup has asked the question 12 times since 1985, with the percentage saying that wealth should be more evenly distributed keeping within a fairly narrow band, ranging between 56 percent and 68 percent.

Gallup also reported a partisan divide: More than eight in 10 Democrats said money and wealth need to be more evenly distributed, compared with 28 percent of Republicans.

It's worth noting that there is less agreement on how this situation should be remedied. Gallup has periodically paired the question above with one additional question: "Do you think our government should or should not redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich?" During the 2012 presidential election, the candidates divided sharply on this question, with President Barack Obama favoring higher taxes on the rich and Republican Mitt Romney opposing any tax hikes.

Support for higher taxes on the wealthy has zig-zagged between mild approval and mild disapproval since the 1980s, while backing for higher taxes on the rich has ranged from 45 percent to 52 percent.

Most recently, in April 2013, Gallup found that 52 percent supported higher taxes on the wealthy while 45 percent opposed such a policy — the second-largest gap in favor of higher taxes since the question was first asked. (In 2008, 51 percent supported higher taxes on the wealthy, while 43 percent were opposed.)

We rate this claim True.

LOUIS JACOBSON, Times staff writer

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: Public seeks to even wealth distribution 06/13/13 [Last modified: Thursday, June 13, 2013 10:20pm]
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