Solid majorities of Americans are pessimistic about the current direction of the country and believe their own actions determine their financial well-being.
These findings are drawn from The Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll, which over three years has sought to understand the American experience and attitudes on the changing economy and to give voice to the concerns and views of middle class Americans. Conducted by Ed Reilly and Jeremy Ruch of FTI Strategic Communications, a communications-strategy consulting firm, the poll surveyed between 1,000 and 1,200 adults.
According to the poll, 57% of Americans are pessimistic about the current direction of the country. And 60% believe that their own financial well-being is determined by their actions and not events out of their control.
Among the poll’s additional findings:
• Nearly one-in-five (17%) Americans say they have a hard time making ends meet each month. Another 52% indicate that while they get by each month, they find it is difficult to save and invest for the future.
• A plurality (44%) of Americans expect that their financial situation will improve by next year, with only around one-in-ten (12%) indicating that they think they will be worse off.
• African-Americans (72%) and Hispanics (59%) are much more likely than Whites (38%) to believe that their financial situation will improve by next year. Americans aged 18-44 (55%) also believe their situation will improve.
• Although 42% of 18 to 29 year olds agree that a four-year degree is a ticket to the middle class, 55% say they could perform their job responsibilities just as well had they not obtained as much education. Forty-six percent say a four-year college degree is an economic burden.
• One-third of Americans (34%) believe the United States will have the world's strongest economy 20 years from now, roughly in line with those who hold similar expectations of China's economy (37%). Respondents cited higher education system (74%), science and research (66%), workforce (56%) and corporate leaders (57%) as America's key strengths.
• Forty-four percent of Americans believe that compared to their parents they have had more opportunity to get ahead, with 24% indicating they have had about the same amount of opportunity.
• Despite the economic headwinds, three-in-five (60%) Americans indicate they are currently living the American Dream.