In general, the Progressives advocated or supported reforms that would make America safer for the middle class and which would allow the middle class to have more control over the society and the government. The Progressives did not trust either big businesses or the poor (particularly immigrants). They felt that both of these groups acted badly and had (at least in some cases) too much power. Therefore, they wanted to reform government and society to change the status quo.
The Progressives felt that the big businesses (and the rich in general) had too much control over government and that they were abusing the rest of the population. To take political power from the rich, the Progressives supported reforms such as the direct election of Senators and initiatives and recalls. To prevent the rich from abusing the rest of the population, they supported greater regulation of business. They advocated such things as the Pure Food and Drug Act and laws against child labor and unsafe working conditions. Finally, the Progressives supported an income tax on the rich to take some of their money and use it to let the government improve society.
The Progressives felt that the immigrants and the poor had bad habits that caused a variety of social problems. They also felt that these groups had too much power in the corrupt urban political machines. To fight the machines, they proposed at-large and non-partisan city elections as well as things like the secret ballot and primary elections. They also wanted more government jobs to be covered by civil service rules and not given out as patronage. Lastly, the Progressives advocated giving women the vote as they believed that middle class women’s votes would outweigh those of the rich and immigrants and would therefore help Progressives take power. To “fix” the problems of the poor, they created social services like settlement houses and, most famously, they supported the idea of prohibition.
In all of these ways, and more, the Progressives supported reforms that would take power away from the rich and the poor as well as reforms that would improve the lives of the poor and prevent the abuse of workers and consumers.