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Black Americans More Optimistic Than Whites About the Economic Future

3 years ago
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While white Americans are more satisfied with their own financial situation than blacks after the long economic downturn, blacks are significantly more optimistic about what the future holds for them and the economy, according to a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University poll conducted Jan. 27 – Feb.9. (Story; Poll Data).

There was also a significant divide in how whites and blacks rated President Obama's economic policies, with whites taking a far dimmer view than blacks.

Sixty percent of whites said they were satisfied with their own personal financial situation, compared with 51 percent of blacks. But 85 percent of blacks said they were optimistic about the future course of the economy while 72 percent of whites held that view.

A greater percentage of blacks believe that an economic recovery has started or will start soon. Thirty-two percent said the economy was recovering, 39 percent said it will start recovering soon and 26 percent predicted recovery will take a long time. However, only 19 percent of whites said the economy was recovering, 24 percent believed it would start to recover soon and 56 percent said it would take a long time.

Eighty-four percent of blacks felt hopeful about their personal financial situation, compared with 73 percent of whites.

Fifty percent of whites believed that the country's "best years are behind us" as far as the availability of good jobs, compared with 59 percent of blacks who say "the best times are yet to come."

Eighty-six percent of whites were somewhat or very dissatisfied with the state of the economy, compared with 72 percent of blacks.

The results for Hispanic-Americans were more mixed.

Hispanics generally saw themselves as worse off than whites or blacks as far as their finances and the impact of the recession on them, and their views about the future of the economy tended to be less optimistic than those of blacks.

While about two-thirds of whites and blacks considered themselves somewhat or very secure financially, only 53 percent of Hispanics felt that way. A smaller percentage of Hispanics say they have full-time jobs than whites or blacks. And Hispanics consider themselves far more vulnerable than blacks or whites in terms of how long they could hold out financially if they lost their paychecks. (About a quarter of Hispanics said they could hold out six months or longer, compared with 34 percent for blacks and 35 percent for whites).

Blacks in the survey reported feeling less stress from the economic situation than whites or Hispanics. Fifty-six percent said the current economic situation has not been a cause of stress for them while 56 percent of whites and 58 percent of Hispanics says it has.

There are similarities among all three groups in some of the ways they coped with the recession. A plurality of whites, blacks and Hispanics described the changes they made in their lifestyles as minor, while the percentage of each group saying the changes had been major ranged from 26 percent to 29 percent. Around two-thirds of each group minimized use of utilities, like heating and electricity. A little over a third of each postponed medical or dental care. About a fifth said they put off retirement. Roughly 7 out of 10 or more had cut back on vacations, dining out and entertainment. About 4 in 10 took extra jobs or worked extra hours.

Whites had a distinctly more negative view of President Obama's economic program than blacks or Hispanics. Eighteen percent of whites said Obama's policies had improved the economy, 36 percent said they had made it worse, 39 percent said they had no effect and 6 percent offered no opinion.

By contrast, 59 percent of black and 36 percent of Hispanics believed Obama's policies had made things better. Only 5 percent of blacks and 13 percent of Hispanics said they had made things worse. Thirty-two percent of blacks and 44 percent of Hispanics said the administration's policies had produced no effect.

Asked whether the Obama administration was doing enough to look out for the interests of "you and your family," 63 percent of blacks said it was doing the right amount, compared with 42 percent of whites. Fifty-four percent of Hispanics said the administration's efforts were about right.

Sixty percent of whites said the administration was doing too little for the working class, compared with 34 percent of blacks and 42 percent of Hispanics who held that view. Fifty-eight percent of whites deemed the administration's efforts on behalf of the middle class as too little, compared with 33 percent for blacks and 32 percent for Hispanics.


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