In a country of dreamers and achievers, we seem surprisingly content in the middle.
The term "middle class" is at once useful for political purposes and practically useless as an economic descriptor. Without a consensus on an economic definition, nearly half of the country self-identifies as being in the middle class.
That gives politicians an opportunity to make far-reaching appeals to voters, speaking to Americans with incomes of $30,000 and $100,000 in the same breath.
In the vast majority of pre-election polls, likely voters are usually asked, "If the election were held today, for whom would you vote?"
That's the wrong question to ask, says Justin Wolfers, a political economist with the University of Michigan. He's spent years researching polls, and in a new paper he offers what he says is the right question: