America has always been viewed as the land of opportunity, where hard work can result in financial success. While a new survey by Pew Research Center reveals that 60 percent of Americans still believe in that, the same percentage says the economic system is unfairly set up to favor the rich.
Only 38 percent of respondents believe being rich is the result of working harder than others, and half say people are poor because of circumstances beyond their control.
In addition, the growing gap between rich and poor, a topic recently debated and discussed by President Obama, Pope Francis and delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is not unnoticed by most Americans.
Nearly two-thirds, or 65 percent, of respondents believe the gap between the rich and everyone else has widened over the past 10 years. Bankrate examined data and found that, in fact, the income gap has been growing over the past 20 years. Read Bankrate's analysis of the widening income gap in the U.S.
How to reduce the income gap?
Overall, 54 percent of survey respondents say that the most effective way to reduce the income gap is to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations and spend the money on programs for the poor. Thirty-five percent of respondents say lowering taxes on the wealthy is a more effective approach because it will encourage economic growth and investment.
The survey highlights the fact that while both Republicans and Democrats share the opinion that the income gap is growing, the difference between the two political parties is in how they believe it should be handled. Among Democrats, 90 percent think the government should do "a lot" or "some" to reduce the gap, while only 45 percent of Republicans think that.
The two parties also differ on the effect of government assistance on recipients. Among Democrats, 66 percent think poor people need government assistance in order to meet their basic needs so they can climb out of poverty. On the flip side, 65 percent of Republicans believe assistance programs result in recipients being too dependent on government aid.
Another hot political potato in the income gap discussions has been the debate over the minimum wage. As part of his plan to reduce income disparities, President Obama has championed an increase in the federal minimum wage. The survey shows most Americans agree with him, with 73 percent in favor of an increase from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.
Keep up with your wealth and mortgages and follow me on Twitter: @JudyMartel.
Get more news, money-saving tips and expert advice by signing up for a free Bankrate newsletter.