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GOP Exits Tampa, Trailed by Perception They’re Party of the Wealthy, Poll Finds

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As Republicans head home from Tampa after naming Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to head their ticket in the November presidential election, they face a widespread perception that the GOP is the party of the rich, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

The study found that 60% of Americans, including 62% who consider themselves middle class, said the Republican Party favored the rich over the middle and lower classes. Slightly less than a quarter said the party favored the middle class.

These views of the GOP were largely unchanged from the 2008 presidential election, the study said.

Nor has Americans’ perception of the Democratic Party changed much in four years, with 20% telling researchers Democrats favor the rich, 35% saying they favor the middle class and 32% believing they favor the poor.

Pew conducted telephone interviews July 16–26 with 2,508 people 18 and older. Some 17% of respondents identified themselves as upper (2%) or upper-middle class (15%), 49% said they were middle class and 32% placed themselves in the lower-middle (25%) or lower class (7%).

The study found Americans ambivalent about the rich. On the one hand, large majorities of self-described middle- and lower-class respondents said they admired people who got rich through hard work.

But 58% said the rich did not pay enough in federal staxes, while 26% said they paid their fair share and 8% said they paid too much. Indeed, 52% of those who identified themselves as upper or upper-middle class said high-income Americans did not pay enough in taxes.

Americans see the rich as different in significant ways. On the positive side, 43% of survey respondents said rich people were likelier to be intelligent than average people, while 8% said the rich were less likely to be intelligent. Fifty percent of respondents demurred on the matter.

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Another 42% of respondents said rich people were more likely to be hardworking than average Americans, while 24% disagreed and 34% did not have an opinion.

On the negative side, 55% of respondents thought rich people were likelier to be greedy than average people, and 34% felt they were less likely than the average person to be honest.

Respondents’ view of the rich differed in unsurprising ways according to their political affiliation. Many more Republicans than Democrats asserted that rich people were likelier than average people to be hardworking and smart.

Big majorities of Democrats said the rich were likelier than average folks to be greedy, and disagreed that the former were likelier than the latter to be honest.

Besides believing the rich do not pay enough in taxes, Americans perceive a widening income gap between the rich and the poor. Sixty-five percent of respondents said the gap had grown over the past decade, and 57% said this was bad for society.

The report said that a separate survey by Pew Research found 76% of respondents in agreement with this statement: “Today it’s really true that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer.”

Responses differed across party and social classes. Ninety-two percent of Democrats agreed with the statement, while only 56% of Republicans did.

Eighty-four percent of self-described lower-class respondents agreed with the statement. So did 71% of middle-class people and 66% of upper-class adults.