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.
“They’ve isolated themselves from everyday America’s 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…
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.
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