AP-NORC Poll: Dems worried about Income gap, Wall Street

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Most Democrats consider income inequality a very important issue and half of them think tougher regulations of the financial markets imposed after the 2008 financial crisis did not go far enough, according to a poll released as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders enter a crucial stretch for the party's nomination.

The poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research suggested support within the party for Sanders' fiery calls to increase regulations on Wall Street banks and address wide gaps between the nation's wealthy and poor. Most Democrats, and Republicans, support increasing the federal minimum wage, although they favor more incremental steps backed by Clinton, the poll found.

More than three-quarters of Democrats (77 percent) in the poll say reducing the gap between rich and poor is very or extremely important for the next president to address. And 8 in 10 Democrats, but just 3 in 10 Republicans, say the government has some responsibility to reduce those income differences.

Democrats were even more likely to say that reducing poverty is very important for the next president (86 percent). Among all Americans, 72 percent say cutting poverty is very important, while 57 percent say reducing the gap between rich and poor is.

The poll offered good news for both Clinton and Sanders.

Half of Democrats say government regulation of financial institutions and markets put in place after the 2008 financial crisis didn't go far enough, an approach in sync with Sanders' calls for more vigorous regulations. Thirty-five percent said the rules were about right, and 15 percent said they went too far. More than two-thirds of Democrats call regulating financial markets a very important issue.

The poll found widespread support for increasing the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour but offered mixed results about how high it should go. Seven in 10 Americans favor increasing the minimum wage, but only half consider it an important issue. Seven in 10 say increasing wages to keep up with the cost of living is very important.

Among all Americans, slightly over half favor increasing the minimum wage to $12 an hour, in keeping with a Senate Democratic proposal backed by Clinton, while just a third support increasing it to $15 an hour, which Sanders has advocated.

Even Democrats are much more likely to favor a minimum wage increase to $12 an hour (68 percent) than to $15 an hour (49 percent).

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The AP-NORC Poll of 1,008 adults was conducted Jan. 14-17 using a sample drawn from NORC's probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.

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Swanson reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Michelle Rindels in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

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Follow Ken Thomas and Emily Swanson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/kthomasdc and http://twitter.com/EL_Swan

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