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Chicago Millionaires Survey Reveals Insight Into Minds of the Wealthy

By DNAinfo Staff on March 27, 2013 1:36pm

 A survey looked at the views of Chicago's millionaires.
A survey looked at the views of Chicago's millionaires.
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CHICAGO — As F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have observed: The rich are different than you and me.

Newly published results from a survey of 83 Chicago millionaires — with a median worth of $7.5 million — finds that compared to most Americans, the area's wealthiest are:

• More concerned about budget deficits.

• Are less willing to pay more taxes for health coverage for everyone.

• And are less favorable to increasing government regulation of big corporations.

Perhaps surprisingly, the researchers, including two Northwestern professors, also found:

• Nearly half of the rich thought the wealthy should pay more into Social Security.

• Some 86 percent of the millionaires were aware that the difference between the rich and the poor is larger than it was 20 years ago.

• Nearly two thirds said that "differences in income in America are too large" (though they don't favor a government-engineered redistribution of the cash.)

A little more than half said hedge fund managers ought to make less, four in ten thought CEOs of large national corporations are paid too much, and that factory workers ought to get bigger paychecks.

In the area of education, nine out of ten support the idea of merit pay for teachers and support charter schools. Only one-third believe that the federal government should "spend whatever is necessary" to ensure all children have "really good public schools."

In their study, published in the March issue of Perspectives on Politics, Northwestern University professors Benjamin I. Page and Jason Seawright and Larry Bartels of Vanderbilt University, say the beliefs of the rich need to be studied because they are politically powerful.

In the most recent presidential election, two-thirds of the respondents had contributed money — an average of $4,633. One-fifth said they "bundled" contributions from others.

"On many important issues the preferences of the wealthy appear to differ markedly from those in the general public," they wrote.

In preparing for the report, "Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Weathly Americans," they found it wasn't easy to get Chicago's millionaires to speak up.

Even with help from the renowned National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, reaching the rich presented "a world of difficulties," they said.

"Most of them are very busy. Most are zealously protective of their privacy. They often surround themselves with skilled professional gatekeepers, whose job is to fend off people like us," the researchers wrote.

As one of the interviewers remarked, "Even their gatekeepers have gatekeepers."