American polling is a funny business, especially at a time when that nation seems unable to make up its mind on just about anything.
Today the Gallup organization reported that Americans have no idea whether their children will be better off in the future or not. According to Gallup,
“Americans are evenly divided about whether it is likely (49%) or unlikely (50%) that the next generation of youth in the country will have a better life than their parents. That is a slightly more positive assessment than in early 2011, when the slight majority, 55%, thought it was unlikely the next generation would achieve this goal.
“Still, views today remain depressed compared with 2008 through early 2010, when Gallup polls found solid majorities of Americans feeling generally optimistic that young people’s standard of living would eclipse their parents’. Prior to that, in polls conducted by other survey firms between 1998 and 2003, optimism on this question was also dominant. One has to go back to 1995 to find the public about evenly split, as it is today.
“Currently, Democrats are significantly more optimistic than Republicans about young people’s chances of exceeding their parents’ standard of living. Also, young adults are more optimistic than those 35 and older, and lower-income Americans are more optimistic than upper-income Americans.
“Democrats’ outlook on this question has been consistently bright in recent Gallup polling since 2009, all conducted when Democratic President Barack Obama has been in office. At the same time, the percentage of Republicans who are optimistic has dramatically declined, from 75% in January 2008 to 29% in the latest survey. By contrast, in 2008, when George W. Bush was president, Republicans were the more optimistic. Similarly, since 2008, optimism among older adults and upper-income Americans has waned more than that among younger and lower-income adults.
“The idea that America offers young people the opportunities necessary to make an even better life for themselves than the one their parents had is often seen as an important part of the American Dream. However, confidence that the current generation will achieve this has been in relatively short supply in recent years, albeit slightly improved in December compared with a year ago.
“While Democrats’ optimism is relatively high, likely owing to the confidence they have in the Democratic president’s leadership, optimism has waned since 2008 among Republicans, older Americans, and those who are more affluent. Nevertheless, the majority of young people and lower-income Americans — groups arguably the least discouraged by life experience, or most in need of climbing further up the economic ladder than their parents — are currently the most likely to believe it is possible.”