Americans Unhappy With Salary Distribution

November 16, 2011

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Financial Services | Staffing | Uncategorized

harris-wage-distribution.jpg80% of Americans agree that top company managers have become rich at the expense of ordinary workers, including 47% who strongly agree, according to a Harris Poll released in November 2011. Results from the poll indicate a partisan divide, with Democrats (89%) more likely to hold this belief than Independents (81%) and Republicans (69%). However, although anti-corporate sentiment appears to be growing across the country, Americans are actually less likely to believe that managers are profiting at ordinary workers’ expense now than a decade ago: in 2002, 87% of Americans felt that way, including 58% who strongly agreed.

Meanwhile, roughly two-thirds of respondents believe that workplace rewards are distributed less fairly than they were 5 years ago, led by Democrats (74%) and Independents (67%). Republicans, though, are just as likely to believe that rewards are distributed as fairly or more fairly (49%) than less (51%).

3 in 4 Angry At Situation

77% of respondents who believe that top managers have become rich at the expense of ordinary workers say they are angry about the situation, with roughly one-third feeling very angry. Again, these feelings of discontent are at lower levels than 2002, when 46% of those who felt that workers were being taken advantage of felt very angry.

Democrats and Independents are equally as likely (37%) to be very angry, ahead of Republicans (23%). However, Republicans are most likely to be somewhat angry, with 46% professing some anger. Just 5% of respondents who believe managers are getting rich at the expense of the average worker report no anger at all.

Top Managers Paid Too Much

7 in 10 Americans believe most top company managers make more than they deserve in salaries and benefits, while just 2% believe they make less they they deserve. Unsurprisingly, a partisan difference remains, with a much larger proportion of Democrats (76%) believing that than Republicans (59%). In 2002, 87% of Americans felt that top company managers were paid more than they deserved.

Most Faring Same or Worse

Just 18% of respondents say they are financially better off now than they were 5 years ago, while 42% report being about the same and 40% say they are worse off. Interestingly, although perceptions of wage inequity and resulting anger were higher in 2002, respondents then were almost twice as likely (34%) to say they were better off financially than 5 years earlier.

The Harris results largely conform with the November Consumer Reports Sentiment Index, a measure of overall consumer financial health, which fell to 45 from 47.6 in October. This index captures respondents’ attitudes regarding their financial situation, asking them if they are feeling better or worse off than a year ago, with a score below 50 indicating they are feeling worse off.

Interestingly, although consumer sentiment with regards to their financial situation remains low, according to a May survey from Dice Holdings, salaries trended upwards in the 6 months prior to the survey release. Indeed, 5% of US companies reported salaries to be significantly higher in May than the previous year, with an additional 36% saying salaries were slightly higher. Furthermore, 41% of hiring managers and recruiters indicated salaries for new hires to be rising, compared to just 29% who felt that way in November 2010.

About the Data: The Harris Poll surveyed 2,463 adults online between October 10 and 17, 2011.

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