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Fox News Poll: Voters say addressing income inequality is not government's job

A new Fox New poll shows a possible disconnect between President Barack Obama and voters on what the president says will be the top priority for the rest of his term: reducing income inequality.

The poll finds that only a small minority of voters (13 percent) thinks the government should do something about the fact some people make a lot more money than others.  A 62-percent majority is okay with disparities in income “because that’s just how the economy works.”  Another 21 percent say income inequality “stinks,” but still think the government “shouldn’t get involved.”

Click here for the poll results.

Twenty-one percent of voters with annual household incomes below $30,000 think the government should do something about income inequality, while 12 percent of those with incomes $100,000 or more feel that way.

One reason there’s an apparent lack of enthusiasm for the government to address income inequality may be that most voters don’t see success as a zero-sum game: 12 percent say if someone makes a lot of money it means someone else has to make less, while 84 percent don’t think it works that way.  Fully 83 percent of voters with incomes below $50,000 say it doesn’t work that way, compared to 84 percent of those with incomes $50,000 or more.

Furthermore, many voters think government involvement can make things worse: for example, 55 percent think giving unemployment benefits to people who have been out of work for a long time discourages them from looking for a job.  More voters than not in both higher and lower income groups say the benefits keep people from trying to find work. 

How long should the federal government provide unemployment benefits? Twenty-six percent of voters say less than a year, 36 percent one year, 13 percent a year and a half, and 20 percent two years or more. 

While a 56-percent majority agrees with the president that the minimum wage should be raised, a sizable minority either wouldn’t raise it (25 percent) or doesn’t think the government should tell businesses what to pay their employees at all (15 percent).

Groups most likely to support raising the minimum wage include blacks (83 percent), Democrats (76 percent), liberals (75 percent), those with incomes below $30,000 (67 percent) and women (63 percent).

Of the individual issues tested in the poll, Obama gets his best marks for the job he’s doing on income inequality (39 approve).  Yet few voters -- 12 percent -- say income inequality is the top economic issue facing the country.  Far more say jobs/unemployment (40 percent) and government spending (36 percent). 

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,010 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from January 19-21, 2014.  The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.