Economically successful Americans have views about national problems that can be of great value to scholars and policy makers. But little is known about the views of the most successful Americans which leads to these views being ignored and sometimes distorted by the media. The Survey of Economically Successful Americans and the Common Good (SESA) gives this select group a rare opportunity to make their voice heard by academics and policy makers engaged in matters of national importance. This pilot study conducted by NORC in 2010/2011, is sponsored by the Russell Sage Foundation, and is lead and designed by principal investigators Benjamin I. Page from Northwestern University and Larry Bartels from Princeton University in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of social scientists.
The pilot study collects data from 100 successful individuals living in four selected neighborhoods in the Chicago area. In addition to testing the survey instrument, the pilot is designed to test the creation of a list sample from multiple sources that will include sufficient numbers of people whose wealth is greater than 40 million so as to yield 50 interviews.
The study examines what sorts of problems successful Americans see as facing the country, and how these problems should be addressed. In addition, the survey instrument collects data about successful people’s positions for or against a number of different government policies, from taxes to spending and economic regulation, as well as market-based and philanthropic solutions to social problems. These views are important to the decisions of officials and policy makers.
The SESA is the first, and so far only, scientific study designed to capture data of this kind from this elite group of Americans. The project is unique in that because there is no reliable, publically available list of very wealthy people, the research team created a specialized list from multiple sources.