Poll: Belief In Economic Opportunity Crosses Race Lines
WASHINGTON - In a rapidly diversifying America, whites and minorities share many common views about what it takes to succeed in today’s economy and a cultural optimism about the progress America has made in expanding opportunity for people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds.
However, they diverge in revealing ways about the role of government, the opportunities they see for the next generation, and the consequences of demographic change, according to poll results just released by The Allstate Corporation and National Journal.
With the U.S. population projected to become “majority-minority” by 2042, the ninth quarterly Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll examined questions of economic opportunity and beliefs about the future of America across a spectrum of racial and ethnic groups.
The poll results show significant agreement about economic opportunity and the path to success in America.
Most Americans believe the U.S. has made real progress on economic opportunity, with 55% saying the country is doing a better job now at creating equal opportunity across ethnic and racial lines than when they were younger.
By a 2-1 margin, Americans believe that our free market economy is successful at creating more opportunity than problems.
Across all backgrounds, education was considered the most important factor for success in America, followed by the state of the economy and an individual’s own skills, while only 2% of respondents believed it was a person’s racial or ethnic background.
The results also show that Americans of all backgrounds believe that economic divides between rich and poor are the most significant contributor to disagreements on important issues – a greater wedge than ethnic, racial, or cultural divides.
“Our survey uncovers that a more diverse America is a more hopeful America – one that sees opportunities available to all, regardless of race or ethnic background,” said Thomas J. Wilson, Allstate chairman, president and chief executive officer. “This optimism in the American dream is further illustrated by the belief that education, individual initiative and hard work are the keys to success. The poll reveals there is common ground as we work to harness the power of our diverse nation to make us all stronger and more successful. Americans of all backgrounds believe disagreements in this country on important issues are driven more by income differences than any other difference, including ethnic or cultural divides.”
However, the survey points out notable divides in three areas: Americans’ opinions on the role of government in fostering economic opportunity, the opportunities they foresee for the next generation, and the potential costs and benefits of the demographic change sweeping America.
While a plurality of white respondents (42%) said they believe “government is the problem” for our economic environment, only 25% of Hispanics, 17% of African-Americans, and 16% of Asians hold that view.
There is a significant partisan divide here as well, with 58% of Republicans saying government is the problem, compared to 36% of independents and 18% of Democrats.
Despite optimism about their own opportunities, a large majority of Americans are concerned for the next generation, with only 33% saying they believe today’s children will have more opportunity to get ahead.
Whites (24%) and Asians (37%) are significantly less likely to be optimistic for today’s children, while African-Americans (57%) and Hispanics (56%) are more hopeful.
“This poll offers many reasons for optimism that more diversity in America is not guaranteed to produce greater division, but it also underscores the risk that racial and ethnic divisions could reinforce the ideological and partisan splits we’re already experiencing,” said Ronald Brownstein, Editorial Director of National Journal Group.