The Political Views of the Highest-Earning U.S. Households

by Reihan Salam

Gallup recently surveyed the highest-earning U.S. households and, among other things, found the following:

Politically, the wealthiest 1% of Americans — those in households earning $500,000 or more annually — are somewhat to the right of the remaining 99%, but more in terms of party identification than self-professed ideology. One-third of the nation’s “1%” identify themselves as Republicans, 41% as independents, and 26% as Democrats. This is a mirror image of the “99%,” a third of whom are Democrats, with 39% independents and a quarter Republicans.

When the party leanings of independents are taken into account, 57% of the nation’s wealthiest adults associate themselves with the Republican Party, compared with 44% of the “99%.” At the same time, Gallup polling finds little difference in the two groups’ ideological views. Among the very wealthy, 39% say their political views are conservative, 41% call themselves moderate, and 20% liberal, similar to the percentages seen among all others.

These numbers have interesting implications for intra-Republican politics. In the unlikely event that all of the 39% percent of the high earners surveyed who identify as conservative also identify as Republicans, only 2% fall into the bucket of non-conservative or (presumably) moderate Republicans. One assumes that many conservatives who self-identify as conservative also identify as independents. Factoring in Republican-leaners, we’re now talking about a Republican-leaning universe in which 39% are conservatives and something like 18% are moderates, presumably of the “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” variety. I would also guess that many of the high earners who identify as conservatives also have socially liberal views. 

While the views of a relatively small fraction of the population might not have obvious electoral implications, they might help winnow the number of viable Republican contenders for the presidency through the so-called “money primary,” i.e., the process through which candidates identify financial backers. So perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising that Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, both of whom have placed social issues at the heart of their presidential campaigns, have found it difficult to raise money from right-of-center donors in places like New York city and Silicon Valley and the Los Angeles basin.

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.