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The have-nots don't seem to agree with the 'not'

Occupy Wall Street members stage a protest march near Wall Street in New York. The Occupy Wall Street movement is having a hard time gaining traction because Middle America is not preoccupied with the rich, but more focused on giving thanks for what they have.

EMMANUEL DUNAND/Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Occupy Wall Street and its sympathizers talk endlessly about the 1 per cent and the other 99 per cent, targeting the Americans at the very upper end of the income range and everyone else.

Sadly for them, many of the "everyone else" don't see it that way, per a new poll from the Gallup polling organization.

For more than two decades, Gallup has periodically been asking the question "Do you, yourself, think of America as divided into haves and have-nots, or don't you think of America that way?" In the summer of 2008, respondents were divided 49 per cent to 49 per cent on the question. It was the only time "no" respondents failed to outweigh those who answered "yes."

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In the most recent poll, conducted Nov. 28 through Dec. 1, however, 58 per cent of respondents answered "no," with just 41 per cent answering "yes." It was the most lopsided result since 2004.

Gallup news release: Gallup also asks respondents which of the groups – "haves" or "have-nots" – they're in. And 58 per cent counted themselves in the "haves," a breakdown Gallup says "has held remarkably steady" over the past two decades.

The poll results, released Thursday, have not received widespread attention, but they have been noticed by conservative bloggers who say the numbers are evidence that "Americans are rejecting class warfare," as Rick Moran of American Thinker said.

"There are disparities in income in America but the people don't seem quite as concerned about that as liberals … We are not generally an envious people so rather than dwell on how much someone else might possess in material wealth, we tend to focus and give thanks for what we have. It's why so few show up at [Occupy Wall Street]demonstrations and why Obama's class warfare rhetoric is not resonating with anyone outside of his liberal base."

Of course, to say "there are disparities in income in America" is to understate the matter: A recent Congressional Budget Office report on income distribution trends from 1979 to 2007 found average real after-tax household income for the top 1 per cent grew by 275 per cent between 1979 and 2007.

The 60 per cent of the population in the middle of the income scale saw income growth of just under 40 per cent; the 20 per cent of the population with the lowest income saw growth of about 18 per cent over the period.

So perhaps Gallup needs to ask a new question: Is America divided into haves and have-mores? Or even have-much-mores? Even so, many Americans seem untroubled by the distinctions, a problem for President Barack Obama's agenda.

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About the Author
Business and investing reporter and columnist

A business journalist since 1994, David Milstead began writing for The Globe and Mail in 2009. During eight years at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colo., he individually or jointly won nine national awards from SABEW, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. He has also worked at the Wall Street Journal. More

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