Any idea what proportion of American families make more than $250,000 a year? Or, to potentially make it easier, any idea what proportion of families in your state make more than $250,000 a year?
Don’t feel bad if you don’t know—most people don’t. The actual number, nationwide is somewhere less than 3% of families earn more than $250,000 a year. What did the survey respondents say when asked this question? The average response was close to 17%!—meaning your typical survey respondent thinks thatalmost 1 in 5 families in America earn that kind of money, whenthe answer is closer to 1 in 50!
Is there a political element to all this? Do Republicans, who, more than Democrats, tend to favor leaving the tax cuts in place have a more distorted view of how many people are making that much money? No, not really, the average Republican gave pretty much the same answer as the average Democrat.
However, there does seem to be some political consequence: in statistical analysis that controls for other influences, among Independent voters, the more distorted their view of how many people make more than $250,000, the lower their opinion of President Obama and the more likely they are to say they will vote for a Republican for Congress next week. So, a person that says 20% of people make $250,000 is more likely to vote Republican than a person that says 5% of people make $250,000.