Middle Class Americans: Who Are They?

10:56 PM, Aug 11, 2012   |    comments
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Greensboro -- You hear politicians refer to them, promise to protect them, and create more jobs for them. Well, "them" is the middle class, but who are they?

"I don't think that it is either rich or poor," said one voter.

"Just people who don't make a lot of money, just people who are kind of struggling," said Carmen Sanchez, North Carolina voter.

"I'd say an average of maybe $24,000 to $36,000 for their annual income," explained Aaron Dunn, North Carolina voter.

"That's the middle class to me, and they have to work hard every day," said Sanchez.

"I don't know what that is necessarily in terms of earnings but I would assume its somewhere between $40,000, $80,000, $100,000," said Phil Minten, North Carolina voter.

From $24,000 to $100,000 - it was difficult for these North Carolina voters to guess just exactly how much someone in the middle class makes and that's the point.  Even the experts say it really is a guess.

"There are social scientists who have definitions of what the middle class is based on income, what the median income is in the country and so forth but what's most important when we talk about political communication is not so much any specific definition of the middle class but what people hear when they say middle class," explains Martin Kiver, political science professor, High Point University. "One of the things that politicians understand is that if you want to communicate to people that you're on their side, that you've got their concerns in mind, you can invoke the middle class and they're going to, people are going to say, 'Oh, that person is talking to me.' We not only believe that right now we're in the middle class but Americans like to believe that it's possible for us to be upwardly mobile."

Professor Martin Kiver of High Point University says no matter what class Americans identify with, the majority would like to see an improvement in the economy and more jobs created.

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