Speed Reads

Inequality Matters

New study says economic struggles and political alienation go hand in hand

A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that Americans of means have significantly more access to politics and the public discourse. As the Guardian reported this morning, only 54 percent of people who are the most "financially insecure" were registered to vote, while a whopping 94 percent of the most "financially secure" were registered. The latter group was also three times more likely to exercise the vote, and almost three times more likely to know which party controlled the legislature.

The study defined the financially insecure as those who lack basic financial goods like checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards or retirement savings; those who rely on safety net programs like food stamps and Medicaid; and who often struggle to pay bills or to afford housing. These Americans can't afford to take time off work, their lives are filled with more daily logistical hurdles, and they're usually less educated. All those hurdles make voting much more difficult, both practically and conceptually, said Zoltan Hajnal, professor of political science at the University of California in San Diego. Impoverished Americans also largely believe their vote does not matter.

By a 60 percent margin, the financially insecure believe the American government should do more to help the least fortunate, while the financially secure are far more skeptical of the social safety net.