Half of Americans want a major overhaul to the US economy, Pew says

  • Half of Americans believe the US economy needs “major changes” or to be “completely reformed.”
  • People largely backed job training but were less supportive of universal basic income, Pew said.
  • Support for economic reform was far more common among liberals than conservatives, Pew added.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As the US enters a new normal, half of its population is ready for an economy that’s starkly different from that which came before.

About 40% of surveyed Americans believe the economy “needs major changes” as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Pew Research report published Thursday. One in 10 Americans said they saw a need for the country’s economic systems to be “completely reformed.”

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Conversely, only 12% of the US sees no need for economic change. Roughly 38% said the country’s economy needs only “minor” changes.

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Pew conducted a survey across the US, UK, France, and Germany from November 10 to December 23. More than 4,000 adults across the four countries responded.

When asked which potential economic policies should be instituted, three-quarters of surveyed Americans said it’s “very important” that the government provide more job and skills training for workers. Nearly half of respondents deemed an increase of government benefits to the poor as “very important,” and 44% said it’s critical the government contribute to affordable housing.

About 45% said it’s very important for lawmakers to lift taxes on the wealthy. President Joe Biden proposed such tax hikes to cover the costs of his upcoming American Families Plan, which includes funds for universal pre-K, paid family and medical leave, and an extended child tax credit. The White House has said it won’t lift taxes on households earning less than $400,000 per year.

Only 31% of Americans characterized universal basic income as “very important,” making it the least supported of the five potential policies. Still, that marks a shift from discussions a decade ago, when universal basic income lingered on the fringes of progressive economic policy.

Support for economic reform was far more common among left-leaning respondents. More than three-quarters of US adults on the left said the country needs a complete overhaul or major changes, according to Pew. That compares to just 32% of right-leaning respondents and 46% from moderates.

Support of stricter government regulation received a more mixed response. Half of surveyed Americans said it’s generally bad for society if the government regulates business, while 46% said such regulation is good. That differs from responses in Europe, where the majority of residents in the UK, France, and Germany supported business regulation.

Even if major economic changes remain years away, Americans are largely optimistic as the country rebounds. Roughly 78% of US respondents said they have either “somewhat good” or “very good” chances at improving their standard of living. Only 7% said they have “very bad” chances, and 11% said their odds are “somewhat bad.”