China and India share relaxed Anglo-Saxon attitudes towards wealth

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute released a report this week claiming that income inequality in America has become drastically worse over the past thirty years. Yet GlobeScan’s most recent opinion polling shows that not only are Americans relaxed about society’s wealthiest, they do not perceive inequality to be a major problem.
The matrix presented here shows how views towards inequality and personal wealth compare in countries around the world. Those shown nearer the top of this matrix are the ones most likely to consider big disparities in wealth to be a major problem, while those towards the right of the matrix are most likely to believe that rich people deserve their wealth.
In the bottom right quarter of the matrix—those nations where people are relaxed about inequality and wealth—are the US and other English-speaking nations, as well as rising Asian powers India and China. It is striking that these two nations are exceptions among the developing nations, where economic inequality is otherwise normally viewed as a major problem.
As previous GlobeScan polling has showed, there is a gulf between the UK and its European partners, with France and Germany—along with Peru—believing that despite low levels of concern about inequality, the rich still do not deserve their wealth. The contrast with Spain is more striking still, with respondents in that crisis-hit country both denouncing extremes of inequality and expressing a marked hostility towards wealth. The Spanish are not alone in this viewpoint—Turks and Nigerians express similar sentiments. Finally, respondents in Brazil, Kenya, and Indonesia assert that though inequality is a major problem, the rich do deserve their wealth.
Though attitudes towards wealth and inequality are often considered closely related, this chart makes clear that other cultural and economic factors come into play. The analysis suggests that policymakers in the Anglo-Saxon world should be wary of viewing wealth taxes as a certain vote-winner, while those in Europe might find strong public support for such measures. The analysis also suggests that companies expanding their operations into emerging economies will need to handle the issue of executive compensation very carefully or risk alienating substantial portions of local opinion.
Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 2, 2012 
This post was written by former GlobeScan Research Director, Sam Mountford.