America Loves (And Hates) Its Billionaires, but Definitely Wants Them to Share the Wealth

American perception of billionaires is changing, new research from The Harris Poll Thought Leadership Practice finds

NEW YORK, Aug. 25, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Most Americans want to be billionaires, but a lot also hate billionaires. Americans think billionaires are good for the country, but also think they don't do enough to make America better, and may even be blocking people from attaining the American dream. Many think they can someday be billionaires - but even more think billionaires should pay higher taxes. Those are among the findings of a Harris Poll Thought Leadership study being released today.

The poll asked Americans nationwide what they thought of billionaires, and it reveals a love-hate affair with the extraordinarily rich, a disconnect on wealth and what should be done with it.

The poll results show that America is conflicted about income inequality, stemming from our traditional admiration of economic success and our belief in an obligation to help the less fortunate, said Libby Rodney, futurist and chief strategy officer at The Harris Poll Thought Leadership Practice.

"The self-made journey of wealth accumulation has always been foundational to the American dream, once with millionaires and now billionaires," Rodney said. "From an individual point of view, many Americans still want to become billionaires, but from a collective sensibility, the story is shifting as billionaires are being painted as a barrier to Americans achieving their personal dreams, while economic inequality grows to a national crisis point."

The distribution of wealth in America is more slanted to the wealthy than any time in modern history. The top 1 percent of American households are worth nearly $43 trillion, more than the total wealth of the entire lowest 90 percent of Americans, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve. The top 10 percent of households are worth about $96 trillion, more than double the wealth of the lower 90 percent, Fed statistics show.

Results from The Harris Poll show concerns about that disparity and a strong consensus to do something about it. The organization polled a nationally representative sample of nearly 2,000 American adults. Among the findings:

  • Six in 10 American adults want to become a billionaire one day, while 40% say they despise billionaires.
  • Close to half (44%) of Americans believe they have the available tools to become billionaires. Among cryptocurrency investors, confidence jumps to a whopping 71%.
  • Generally, Americans show high regard for billionaires, with more than six in 10 seeing billionaires as being good for society, innovation, and the economy.
  • However, seven in 10 Americans strongly believe that billionaires have the responsibility to better our society, but aren't doing enough. Nearly half (49%) believe the government should mandate philanthropic donations by billionaires.
  • Two-thirds (66%) of Americans believe that economic inequality is a serious national issue, with nearly half (46%) of Americans believing that billionaires make it harder to achieve their American Dream.
  • Billionaires are especially seen as getting in the way of personal dreams of younger Americans (59% of Gen Z, 58% of Millennials) and diverse Americans (68% of LGBTQ, 58% of Asian).

Concerns about fairness rise to the top of Americans' concerns with billionaires, on the issues of tax policy, inflation and wealth accumulation during the pandemic.

  • 65% of Americans think that billionaires don't pay their fair share of taxes.
  • 58% think that billionaires' activities contribute to the rise in inflation.
  • 58% resent billionaires' wealth accumulation during the pandemic.

The Harris Poll found Americans strongly prefer action to address the disparity in wealth, by increasing taxes on extreme wealth and even limiting how much wealth people can accumulate.

  • Two-thirds (66%) of Americans believe that those with extreme wealth should be taxed more heavily.
  • A majority (53%) would impose those higher taxes at $1 billion or less of wealth.
  • About one-third (34%) said people should not be taxed differently because of wealth.

Nearly half (47%) of Americans say there is a point when wealth should be capped.

  • 24% say wealth should be capped under $1 billion.
  • 20% say wealth should be capped somewhere between $1 billion to $10 billion.

The Harris Poll also captured Americans' feelings on billionaires' sway over mass media, such as Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's bid to purchase Twitter, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' ownership of The Washington Post.

  • Over four in 10 (42%) of Americans think billionaires should not be allowed to purchase businesses in the media industry (e.g., newspapers, news websites) or social media (e.g., Twitter) .
  • Nearly three in 10 (28%) say billionaires shouldn't be able to post on social media at all.

"As our society continues to grow in two different directions, with the middle class disappearing, Americans are having a reckoning with wealth accumulation," Rodney said. "Everyone wants wealth, but the idea now is that once you have it, you are now expected by the rest of society to act responsibly with it and leverage it for the good of the society."

The Harris Poll's "Americans and Billionaires Survey" is available now. To speak with experts or to learn more about The Harris Poll Thought Leadership Practice, visit

About Harris Poll Thought Leadership Practice
Building on 50+ years of experience pulsing societal opinion, we design research that is credible, creative, and culturally relevant. Our practice drives thought leadership and unearths trends for today's biggest brands. We are focused on helping our clients get ahead of what's next.

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