Summarized by one of the study’s authors:
As you can see from the figure, participants rather badly estimated the current state of wealth disparity! Furthermore, they offered an ideal wealth distribution (under a “veil of ignorance”) that was even more different (and more equal) relative to the current state of affairs.
What this tells me is that Americans don’t understand the extent of disparity in the US, and that they (we) desire a more equitable society. It is also interesting to note that the differences between people who make more money and less money, republicans and democrats, men and women — were relatively small in magnitude, and that in general people who fall into these different categories seem to agree about the ideal wealth distribution under the veil of ignorance.
In reality, the top 20% own about 85% of the wealth. Most people guessed it was between 55%-60% — way off. And they thought the ideal number should be about 35%, a figure much lower than their 55%-60% guess, and far, far lower than the factual number of 85%.
I suppose most of the ultra-wealthy in this country are heartened to learn of these results, that the average American believes income distribution is more equally distributed than it actually is. It’s difficult to fuel class warfare when most of classes don’t have a clue as to what’s reality versus fiction. Ignorance is bliss, and who better to keep “catapulting the propaganda” than the likes of the GOP, Fox News, corporate special interests, etc.
Until most Americans get their heads out of their arses, this disequilibrium will continue to widen.