Rebecca Smith

Date of Award

Spring 4-29-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Historical & Political Studies; College of Arts & Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Amy Widestrom


The income gap in America has grown radically over the last several decades and rivals the income gap during the Gilded Age. And yet, economic inequality is not a highly salient issue in American politics. To understand this, it is necessary to consider how Americans think about the issue. This thesis attempts to determine what factors contribute to the ways in which Americans think about economic inequality. Public opinion about economic inequality is an important topic because it has a concrete effect on policies that can either mitigate or exacerbate economic inequality. To answer this question, scholars generally center around four factors: socioeconomic status, normative frameworks, information levels, and the media. This paper investigates whether just one of these factors shapes public opinion about economic inequality, or if various factors play important roles. I argue that normative frameworks, economic status, and some social characteristics are all factors that influence opinions about economic inequality.


This paper was presented at the Mid-Atlantic Undergraduate Social Research Conference on March 23, 2016.