5 July 2012 – As the debate over top earners’ pay continues, public dissatisfaction with income inequality remains high, according to new GlobeScan data from a 23-nation study released today, with fewer than half in most countries polled believing most rich people in their country deserve their wealth.
GlobeScan polled more than 12,000 adults across 23 countries about their attitudes towards economic inequality as part of the annual GlobeScan Radar global public opinion study on business and its role in society. In 12 countries over 50% of people said they did not believe that the rich deserved their wealth.
Seventeen of the countries were also asked for their attitudes towards economic inequality in a comparable 2008 study. This year’s findings reveal that only 43 per cent of people across the 17 countries surveyed in both years feel that most rich people in their country deserve their wealth. Almost half of those polled in both years (48%) disagree that rich people merit their wealth—a figure that has remained stable since 2008 (49%).
The figures show that public concern with the way wealth is divided remains almost as high as it was in the year of the Lehman Brothers collapse, when corporate practices—in the banking sector particularly—started coming in for intense scrutiny. They come in a week when new French president François Hollande has unveiled a new 75% tax on incomes above €1m, and when a prominent high earner, Barclays’ Bob Diamond, whose remuneration has been strongly criticised in the past, has been forced to resign.
In only six countries surveyed in 2012 did more than half feel that rich people deserve their wealth. The most likely nations in 2012 to feel that rich people in their country deserved their wealth were Australia (61% up from 53% 2008), Canada (58%, down from 61% in 2008) and the USA (up one point from 2008 at 58%). They contrast with much of GlobeScan’s recent polling, where Anglo-Saxon nations were among the developed countries where trust in business more generally was lower than in the developing world.
Attitudes in Europe were mixed, with 45% of Britons feeling the rich deserve their wealth, 31% of French and 35% of Germans.
Greece emerged as the country least likely to feel that its rich people deserved their wealth (with only nine per cent agreeing), but Russia (16%, down from 17%) Turkey (20%, up from 14%) and Spain (20%, up from 18%) were also profoundly sceptical.
Sam Mountford, GlobeScan’s Director of Global Insights, comments: “These figures show that citizens around the world remain far from convinced that the way wealth is divided in their country is fair. This underlying sense of economic inequity may well present a challenge to governments planning to cut and deregulate their way back to prosperity.”
A total of 12,234 adults were surveyed across Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the UK, and the USA between December 6 2011 and February 17 2012. Interviews were conducted by GlobeScan and its global partners face to face or by telephone. In six of the 23 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/- 2.9 to 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
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