A Tale of Two Generations
National Poll Finds Strong Support for Two-Generation Approaches
In mid-September, 2012, Ascend at the Aspen Institute – which is a hub for breakthrough ideas and proven strategies that move parents, especially women, and their children beyond poverty toward educational success and economic security – commissioned from Lake Research Partners and Chesapeake Beach Consulting a national survey to explore values and solutions as the country continues its economic recovery. The national survey specifically highlighted the public appetite for two-generation approaches, which provide opportunities for and meet the needs of parents and children together. Building on Ascend-commissioned, bipartisan focus groups conducted in late 2011 among low-income single and married mothers and fathers across race and ethnicity, which revealed a strong yearning for economic stability and doubts about the future, the national survey of American adults finds a similar dynamic:
The Generational Divide: Americans are split on whether or not they are better off than their parents’ generation, but they believe the next generation will be worse off than their own. Age determines their perception, as younger voters believe their generation is worse off and older voters believe their generation is better off.
Forty percent of American adults believe their generation is better off than their parents’ generation, 41 percent believe their generation is worse off than their parents’ generation, and 16 percent say it is about the same. When asked to think about the next generation compared to their own, 52 percent say the next generation will be worse off compared to 21 percent who say it will be better off and 24 percent who say it is about the same.
There are generational and class divides when people compare their generation to their parents’. Nearly 6 in 10 voters under the age of 40 say their generation is worse off than their parents’ generation, compared to 62 percent of voters over 65 who say their generation is better off than their parents’ generation.
By education, non-college graduates are more pessimistic than their college educated peers. A 45 percent plurality of non-college-educated voters say they are worse off than their parents’ generation, while 37 percent say they are better off. In contrast, a 46 percent plurality of college-educated voters say they are better off than their parents and 36 percent say they are worse off.
A New Language for a New Economy: Economic stability is the watchword of today’s economy.
When choosing between economic security and economic opportunity, a 50 percent majority of Americans choose security. When choosing between economic security and economic stability, a 43 percent plurality of voters chooses stability.
Stability and security are particularly important among women and Hispanics. Fifty-seven percent of women say security is more important compared to opportunity (23 percent), and 43 percent say stability is more important compared to security (34 percent). Among Hispanics, 60 percent say security is more important than opportunity (13 percent), and 56 percent say stability is more important than security (29 percent).
Economic stability’s salience tracks closely with the sentiments of low-income single mothers and fathers who, in the 2011 focus groups, expressed a strong desire for stability in an economy where often times they can be impacted by the irresponsible decisions of others – particularly by the financial industry and politicians.
Strong Support for Two-Generation Approaches: Voters strongly support a two-generation approach to helping families get out of poverty and favor two-generation programs EVEN if it increased their own taxes.
Voters strongly believe that federal or state programs that target both parents and children through education and developing skills would be the most effective approach in helping people get out of poverty. A 63 percent majority of voters believe a two-generation approach would be most effective, while 11 percent believe programs targeted just to children and 4 percent believe programs targeted to parents would be most effective. One in five voters believes we do not need any more programs.
Eighty-one percent of voters favor a program “designed to help people who are living in poverty get out of poverty [that] targets both parents and their children, so that parents get education and skills training to get a better job and at the same time their children get a good start with Head Start, early education, and quality schools” including 68 percent who strongly favor the program. Support for the program extends across party lines as 95 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Independents, and 65 percent of Republicans favor the program.
When asked if they would support the program even if it increased their taxes, overall support weakens slightly, but still a majority of voters strongly favor the program. There is also some erosion among tax-sensitive demographics, such as Republican men. Overall support remains high with 70 percent of voters in favor of the program, including 52 percent who strongly favor the program. Looking across party lines, an 89 percent majority of Democrats and a 64 percent majority of Independent voters still favor the program. Republican support erodes considerably among both men and women though a majority of Republican women still favor the program. A 53 percent majority of Republican men oppose the program while 46 percent support it. Among Republican women, however, 51 percent support the program even if it increased their taxes, while 38 percent oppose it.
Lake Research Partners and Chesapeake Beach Consulting designed this survey, which was administered by Caravan in an omnibus survey conducted by telephone using professional interviewers. The survey reached a total of 1,011 adults nationwide in the continental United States. The survey was conducted from September 20-23, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1% at the 95% confidence interval. The margin of error is higher among subgroups.