America’s elites are living in a bubble — and here’s the data to prove it

“The elite are out of touch” is hardly headline news — except when we get some concrete data on just how out of touch they are, as we did this month.

According to a poll commissioned by free market advocacy group the Committee to Unleash Prosperity and conducted by RMG Research, the “top 1 percent” earners in America — many of whom are Ivy League graduates — want to ban cars, ration meat and electricity, limit air travel, and reign in individual freedoms in overwhelmingly greater numbers than their peers.

They also have very high trust in the government and think Joe Biden is doing a fantastic job as President.

“The people who run America, or at least think they do, live in a bubble of their own construction,” the report’s Executive Summary begins.

“Theyve isolated themselves from everyday Americas realities to such a degree their views about what is and what should be happening in this country differ widely from the average American’s.

For the purposes of the poll, the “elite” were defined as people having at least one post-graduate degree, earning at least US$150,000 annually, and living in a high-population density area — and were described as “a group with extraordinary political and societal power”.

“The Elites represent 1 percent of the US population but have an outsized voice on public policy in the United States, with their views seeming somehow to dominate the national conversation,” according to the report’s authors.


So what did the data show?

While only 20 percent of Americans say they are better off today than they were in the past, 74% of elites say their financial situation has improved.

Just 28 percent of Americans favour the strict rationing of gas, meat and electricity to “fight climate change”, compared with 77 percent of elites.

Asked if gas stoves, gas-powered cars, air conditioning, SUVs, and “non-essential air travel” should be banned, between 13 to 25 percent of Americans agreed, depending on the particular item in question. By contrast, 53 percent to 72 percent of elites favoured such bans.


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Nearly six in ten elites said there is too much individual freedom in America — double the rate of everyday Americans.

Asked if they can trust the government to do the right thing most of the time”, 70 percent of the elites agreed — more than twice the national average.

President Joe Biden enjoys high favourability among elites, 84 percent of whom approve of the job he is doing, compared to just 44 percent of other voters.

The report’s authors summarised:

These results confirm what people have long suspected: today, there are two Americas. One is wealthier, more highly educated, and attended the best schools. They put much more trust in big government “to do the right thing” and, by their own admission, benefit from more expansive government policies. They have also been hurt far less by the high inflation of the Biden presidency than those who live from paycheck to paycheck and are in the lower and middle classes.

This Grand Canyon-sized chasm between where everyday Americans stand on the state of the country, expanding government power, draconian climate change solutions, and Joe Biden’s job performance may partly explain the Donald Trump phenomenon and his high approval ratings among working-class voters…

Ivory towers

Far from being “the result of a conspiracy”, the report concluded, the views of America’s elites “arise from what might be better described as a fraternity culture” inculcated in the nation’s elite universities and reinforced through high-frequency, insular political chatter.

“Additionally, unlike most voters, Elites can easily access and influence government officials on issues of concern,” the report likewise notes.

America’s closet authoritarians, in other words, are using their access to power to effectively choke out the nation’s founding ideals of freedom, equality and self-governance.

Not the best use of influence and prestige, one might conclude.

It is refreshing to have these contrasts — and the threat they present — laid out so clearly.

The big challenge now? Convincing the people who are living in a bubble that they are, in fact, living in a bubble.

And to let everyone else just get on and live their lives.

The American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald was fascinated by the lifestyles of the rich and famous. In one of his early short stories, he wrote:

“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”

That was nearly a hundred years ago. Things still haven’t changed.

Kurt Mahlburg is a writer and author, and an emerging Australian voice on culture and the Christian faith. He has a passion for both the philosophical and the personal, drawing on his background as a graduate architect, a primary school teacher, a missionary, and a young adult pastor.

Image: Pexels


Showing 13 reactions

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  • mrscracker
    It’s a group effort Mr. Steven. Everyone here benefits in some way from illegal immigration, with the exception of migrants who perish at the hands of their smugglers.
    Until there’s a real incentive to secure the border properly it’s not going to happen. To remain successful, smuggling operations must benefit both the sending & receiving sides. Most folks in the US either don’t understand that or don’t want to acknowledge it.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-02-02 09:44:20 +1100
    mrscracker, I ask again.

    What is it that prevents the United States adopting more sensible immigration policies?

    For that matter, why is it so difficult to get any legislation passed and enforced?
  • mrscracker
    Mr. Steven, considering there are at least 10 million undocumented folks currently living in the United States how likely is it that we wouldn’t have got to know any personally, have them become members of our families, schools, or communities?
    I understand comment boxes aren’t a perfect way to communicate with each other but I don’t think my thoughts on immigration are coming through clearly. And that’s probably a failing on my part.
    People are a resource. People aren’t the problem, our immigration system & the human smuggling cartels are the problem.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-01-31 16:01:06 +1100
    mrscracker, how many interactions do you have with people outside your bubble? How many do any of us have?

    The latest bogeyman is illegal immigrants. But these are people who risked their lives, endured incredible harsdhips, to make it to “El Norte”.

    Have you ever spoken to any of them? Maybe people willing to risk so much to go to the United States are exactly the sort of people your country needs. Maybe you should consider them potential assets.

    I’m not talking about just letting anyone in. But maybe after a vetting process those that made it to the border could be allowed to stay. What harm would it do to give such a policy a try?
  • mrscracker
    Yes, Mr. Steven but hiring people to do your chores/errands prevents you from interactions with folks from different stations in life. That’s not a good thing overall.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-01-31 08:27:34 +1100
    Hi Paul Stain

    I’m not arguing with you. But Kurt Mahlburg is applying it to the elites generally. That’s a dangerous delusion for the non-elites.

    Older and Wise – thanks


    The affluent can, and do, hire people to look outside their bubbles for them just as they can hire cooks to do their cooking. It’s a completely different life.
  • mrscracker
    To be fair, we each live in some sort of cultural bubble but just from my own personal experience the affluent can live in more opaque bubbles than the rest of us do. And it’s really not something beneficial for them.
  • Older and Wiser
    Steven, you are dependably breathtaking. Erudite. Confident. Skilled wordsmith. No slipshod generalizations or bogus conclusions with you on watch.
  • Paul Stain
    commented 2024-01-30 15:56:01 +1100
    Hello Steve, my main purpose in posting the previous comment was to let people know where the quote came from and to encourage readers to read the short story. I appreciate it as a work of literature. Fitzgerald does capture a particular mindset. I can admire a writer that can take us into the thoughts of another and so expand the understanding of other people and ourselves. You may not agree with Fitzgerald, but I have to admire his prose. Also, I do not think I would have liked the particular person he is referring to. Fitzgerald in this work focuses on a certain character he distains. It is up to us to generalise and apply it more widely. However, no matter what it is a lovely piece of work.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-01-30 14:58:39 +1100
    Hi again Paul Stain

    I was decidedly not a rich kid but I grew up with rich kids. It’s been interesting to watch them.

    A few lost it all. In their case it really was “shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations.”

    Rather more, having got a good start in life, went on to amazing achievements. One I truly believe deserves a Nobel in Physiology/Medicine. Another one pioneered techniques in cardiovascular surgery.

    Most did very well without doing anything spectacular.

    I only know of one who had a substance abuse problem.

    As a bunch they were anything but soft.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-01-30 14:45:30 +1100
    Hi Paul Stain

    I recognised the quote. And Fitzgerald was wrong. The apparently soft exterior of the rich conceals a hard as nails interior.

    It is the proletariat who are soft in a sort of psychological sense. They are afraid to recognise their true position – how vulnerable they are. So they comfort themselves with fantasy.

    Allowing them to play with their pathetic little guns is a brilliant move on the part of the elite. It allows the proletariat to delude themselves they have power when, in reality, they have none.
  • Paul Stain
    commented 2024-01-30 14:15:41 +1100
    The quote in this article is from Scott Fitzgerald’s short story ‘The Rich Boy.’ It is based on someone he knew and is a sharp critique of shallow materialism. I have read it several times and it left me unsettled each time. I do not want you unsettled but I recommend reading it.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-01-30 12:56:37 +1100
    The people who are “out of touch” are not the elites. Collectively they understand how the world really works. That’s how they remain the elite.

    And if there’s something they don’t understand they can hire the best brains to find out.

    One of the things the elites really understand is how to manipulate the emotions of what The Bearded Guy you all Love to Hate called the proletariat. That means 80% of Americans.

    That’s why they have you fretting over the non-existent “Great Drag Queen Conspiracy” instead of focusing on things that you really should be watching.

    You know, things like how private equity firms buy up hospitals to create local monopolies, then raise prices, then reduce staff and services with a resulting rise in mortality rates.

    Milk ’em, then kill ’em is the strategy.

    But that’s hard, it’s difficult to get your heads around. It involves delving into the numbers.

    Much more entertaining to rail against drag queens.

    It’s the proletariat, not the elites, who are clueless.