Over the last few decades, there has been a rapid rise of affluence in America. According to 2003 Census figures, one in every four households in America is now "mass affluent," compared with only about one in seven in 1980. The demographic segment of "mass affluents" (defined as people living in households with annual incomes of $75,000 and above) wields serious purchasing power and presents savvy marketers with new opportunities. Analysts have characterized this mass market as having an appetite for product offerings that are sandwiched somewhere between low-end, low-priced goods and high-end, luxury goods.
A special analysis using data aggregated from several Gallup Polls* provides an in-depth look at the values and politics of mass affluent America, and reveals that there is more to the mass affluent than their predilection for cost-conscious luxury.
Apart from the fact that affluents are more likely than non-affluents to be Republicans (55% of affluents are Republicans or lean Republican, compared with 41% of non-affluents), affluents and non-affluent Americans are surprisingly similar ideologically. In contrast, non-affluent Americans, while more likely to be Democratic, subscribe to a relatively conservative value system as far as social issues are concerned. While 36% of affluents take a conservative position on social issues, an almost identical percentage of non-affluents (37%) share this view. When it comes to economic issues, 45% of affluents and 43% of non-affluents describe themselves as conservative.
But a divide between affluents and non-affluents emerges at times when they are asked about their positions on specific social issues. Gallup asked respondents in both groups to rate the moral acceptability of a wide variety of social issues, ranging from homosexual behavior to abortion. Affluents and non-affluents agree on the moral acceptability of moral issues such as medical testing on animals and divorce. The death penalty also receives widespread moral acceptance within both income groups. And large majorities in both groups consider suicide, human cloning, and extramarital affairs morally unacceptable.
The issues on which affluents and non-affluents are most likely to disagree include cloning animals, doctor-assisted suicide, abortion, and homosexual behavior. And on each of these issues, affluents adopt more liberal positions than non-affluents, despite their majority Republican credentials. Affluents are also more likely to be tolerant of sex between unmarried men and women and stem cell research.
Businesses seeking to make inroads in the mass affluent market would do well to familiarize themselves with the mass affluent value system. In aligning brand values to customer values, it pays to remember that mass affluent Americans, even though more likely to be Republican, are not necessarily conservative.
More on Gallup's special analysis of the mass affluent market segment can be found in the Gallup Management Journal at gmj.gallup.com.
*Results are based on telephone interviews with 3,029 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 2001, May 2002, and May 2003. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.