- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The majority of us don’t envy the luxury life, dream of money or even begrudge those who have it. Only 37 percent of us, in fact, say we would be happier if we were wealthy, according to a new Gallup survey released yesterday.

“Most Americans don’t have a strong desire to be rich,” said Jeffrey M. Jones, a Gallup analyst. “The public tends to think that those who make a lot of money deserve it, but not to think the poor deserve their lot in life.”

More than half of the respondents — 54 percent — said those with the big bucks were entitled to their status. The old rags-to-riches ideal is still alive as well: Another 53 percent said that anyone can be rich if they put their mind to it. We don’t blame money for our ills either. Overall, four out of 10 said that “money is the root of all evil.”

It’s a little more evil to some, however.

In a breakdown of responses by income, Gallup found that 52 percent of those whose annual income was under $35,000 said that money was the source of evil, compared with 48 percent of those with middle-class income (up to $75,000) and 34 percent of those with higher incomes — more than $75,000.

Low incomes did not signal softer hearts, though.

“People with lesser economic means are actually less sympathetic to the plight of the poor than those with greater means,” Mr. Jones said.

The poll found that 23 percent of lower-income respondents say “poor people deserve to be poor,” compared with 12 percent among middle-income respondents and just 5 percent of those with high incomes.

There was some disagreement about money between the sexes as well.

“Being rich seems to have more appeal to men than women,” Mr. Jones said.

Indeed, almost half the male respondents — 45 percent — said they would be happier rich, and that they “dream” of becoming wealthy, compared with 30 percent of the women. Sentiments, however, are more pronounced among the young.

Fifty-nine percent of men ages 18 to 49 dream of wealth, but the number drops to 27 percent older than 50. Among younger women, 35 percent dream of money, dropping to 23 percent over age 50.

Six out of 10 men said the rich deserved their money; women, at 47 percent, were less sure of the idea. Another 57 percent of the men said making money was a personal goal, compared with 44 percent of women.

The survey of 1,003 adults was conducted Nov. 27-29 and has a margin of error of 3 percent.

Meanwhile, the rich keep spending. A poll released Dec. 4 by Elite Traveler magazine of 1,027 “super-rich” adults — each with a net worth of at least $10 million — found their holiday spending on luxury items is up this year across 14 categories.

A few examples: Each spent an average of $91,100 on jewelry, $52,000 on watches, $36,400 on fashion, $34,600 on their personal holiday entertaining, $25,700 on electronics and $22,300 for wine and liquor for their parties — up from $14,200 last year, a rise of more than 57 percent. The survey also found that the rich are getting more generous, with charitable donations rising to $94,200, a gain of 52 percent from last year.

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