(Reuters) - Americans believe that there is more conflict between rich and poor than between immigrants and the native-born or between blacks and whites, according to a Pew Research Center opinion survey released on Wednesday.
Researchers found 30 percent of Americans say there are “very strong conflicts” between the poor and the rich, which is the largest share expressing that opinion since the question was first asked in 1987, the Pew report said.
In all, 66 percent of respondents to the Pew survey said there are either “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between rich and poor.
Democrats, younger adults, women and blacks were the most likely to say they perceived signs of class conflict, researchers found.
By comparison, 62 percent of Americans say immigrants and the native-born have strong conflicts with each other, compared with 47 percent in 2009, the Pew Center said. In the 2009 survey, more Americans believed there were conflicts over immigrants than over wealth.
The new survey suggested racial conflict is ebbing, with only 38 percent of respondents saying there are serious conflicts between blacks and whites, while 34 percent said such emnity exists between the young and the old.
The Pew Center said the results do not necessarily mean more Americans believe the wealthy are at fault for a class divide, since some individuals who see more conflict may believe anger at the wealthy is misdirected.
The Pew survey further found that 46 percent of Americans believe the rich got their wealth from knowing the right people or being born into the right families, while 43 percent said wealth came from hard work, ambition or education.
Pew, an independent research organization, said its report was based on findings from a telephone survey of 2,048 adults conducted from December 6 to December 19 and which had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
Income inequality promises to be an issue in this November’s U.S. presidential campaign. The Occupy Wall Street movement also has seized upon the issue.
The most recent U.S. Census Bureau data shows the proportion of overall wealth held by the top 10 percent of the population rose to 56 percent in 2009 from 49 percent in 2005, the report noted.
Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Greg McCune and Eric Walsh