VU prof study shows wealthy Americans averse to supporting national health care programs

The wealthiest Americans are urgently concerned with reducing the national deficit and look favorably on cutting social programs such as Social Security to do so, according to a new study co-authored by Vanderbilt University professor Larry Bartels.

Bartels (pictured) and two researchers from Northwestern University identified 83 Chicago-area respondents willing to be surveyed and who had an average wealth of $14 million, putting them in the top 1 percent of wealth-holders.

Here are some of the survey’s findings:

• The respondents were less willing to pay taxes in order to provide health coverage for U.S. citizens, and they are much less supportive of tax-financed national health insurance.

•  They favor lower estate tax rates, are less eager to increase income taxes on high-income people and oppose government action to redistribute income or wealth.

• About 99 percent of those surveyed voted in 2008, and 84 percent said they paid attention to politics most of the time. Two-thirds said they contributed to political campaigns, and they averaged $4,633 to candidates or organizations in the previous year.

• Twenty-one percent of wealthy respondents in the study solicited or “bundled” other peoples’ political contributions, something rarely if ever done by ordinary citizens.

“Most people suspect that the wealthy play a big role in American politics,” Bartels said in a statement to Vanderbilt News Service. “Remarkably, though, we have never had any systematic evidence about their political preferences and behavior. This project begins to fill that gap.”

Bartels and his academic colleagues are seeking funding for a larger national study of the political views of the wealthy.

For more information about the research, go here.