WASHINGTON, April 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- While the American middle class is still optimistic about getting ahead, they have become increasingly fearful that they may fall behind, according to poll results released today by The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL) and National Journal.
[Watch a live briefing on the latest Heartland Monitor Poll TODAY at 9am ET at http://www.nationaljournal.com/events.]
The 16th quarterly Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll focuses on the American middle class and seeks to uncover important insights about how this cornerstone economic group perceives the future. The poll asks Americans to define what it means to be part of the middle class, based on income, financial security, education and lifestyle. Unsurprisingly, many Americans (46 percent) identify as middle class and almost all Americans (85 percent) consider themselves a part of an expanded definition of being middle class that includes upper middle class (12 percent), and lower middle class (26 percent).
The most recent Heartland Monitor Poll also identifies renewed concern about the country's recovery and an increase in skepticism toward major political and business institutions. Specifically, the mood of the country has worsened with only 29 percent of respondents believing the U.S. is headed in the "right direction," a considerable decline from a three-year high of 41 percent recorded in November 2012. Democrats' optimism has decreased by 23 points to 54 percent in the most recent data, while just 32 percent of the middle class feel the country is headed in the right direction.
"Over the last four years, Americans' views in this poll have been consistently right about the economy. Today, they are sounding the alarm bell that the economy is not on track for sustainable growth. More affordable college education, job creation and stability are seen as key priorities," said Thomas J. Wilson, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Allstate. "The blame is spread wide and far, from politicians to business leaders. Americans are crying out for leaders to work together to create a path to economic prosperity. We should listen and act now."
Heartland Monitor XVI reveals that public opinion is narrowly balanced between hopes of economic improvement and fears about falling behind. Nearly three-in-five middle class Americans (59 percent) say they are concerned about falling out of their economic class. The attributes Americans have historically seen as safeguards for middle class families such as educational attainment and responsible financial planning are now considered by many to be unrealistic or only attainable by the upper class. At the same time, Americans remain optimistic about the potential to move up the economic ladder at some point in the future; this is especially true among Millennials, African Americans and Hispanics, whom view economic opportunity as being on the horizon.
The new poll shows that there is now a sense that the term 'middle class' has now been redefined to mean not falling behind, rather than upward mobility and material possessions. Americans mostly blame decisions made by political leaders and major business institutions over the past few decades for wages falling behind living expenses. In fact, Americans believe the government and private sector (local business excluded) are actually making the economic situation worse for the middle class. The latest Heartland Monitor shows that 64 percent of Americans believe Congress has made things worse for the middle class, while a mere 8 percent believe legislators are making things better. It's not much better in the private sector, 55 percent of Americans think major financial institutions are making things worse and 54 percent of Americans believe CEOs of major U.S. corporations are hurting the economy as well.
Americans are clear with their prescriptions for policymakers with more than half (55 percent) preferring lawmakers to take an approach that invests in long-term job planning and growth in favor of initiatives that temporarily alleviates day-to-day expenses (38 percent). Among a list of policy preferences favored by Americans as a prescription for improving the middle class, improving access to and lowering the cost of higher education ranked as the most important (38 percent). Although most Americans still consider a college education to be an important hallmark of middle-class status, many now feel it is affordable only for the upper class (49 percent).
"Americans still believe they can reach for the stars—but are increasingly concerned that they are standing on a trap door as they do," said Ronald Brownstein, editorial director for National Journal. "The survey suggests that after years of economic turmoil, most U.S. families now believe the most valuable, and elusive, possession in American life is not any tangible acquisition, like a house or a car, but rather economic security. Even while capturing the durability of the belief that individuals can better their circumstances, these results also pointedly remind us how much economic anxiety and political alienation still shadows American life, even after the darkest clouds of the Great Recession have lifted."
Key findings from the 16th Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll (PDF) include:
1. Who is the middle class? A broad definition includes nearly everyone, and a more narrowly defined grouping includes a diverse mix of incomes and socioeconomic backgrounds.
2. The American middle class is anxious and in flux. While many dream of upward mobility, most are concerned about falling out of their economic class.
3. Americans believe the key to staying in or moving into the middle class is by attaining a higher level of education, but find it increasingly unaffordable.
4. For many, being middle class now means financial security rather than material items or financial growth, and it means keeping from falling behind in an uncertain and challenging economy.
5. Americans want policymakers and businesses to focus on actions that increase economic opportunities, create jobs, and make education attainable and affordable. However, major institutions are seen as hurting, not helping, the American middle class.
6. After a momentary upswing in national optimism and goodwill, Americans have renewed concerns about the economy and about the nation's political leadership.
Notes to Editors
National Sample of 1,000 ADULTS AGE 18+
With a Breakout of 464 Self-Identified Middle Class
(Sample Margin of Error for 1,000 Respondents = ±3.1% in 95 out of 100 cases)
Conducted April 5-9, 2013 via Landline and Cell Phone
The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL) is the nation's largest publicly held personal lines insurer known for its "You're In Good Hands With Allstate®" slogan. Now celebrating its 80th anniversary as an insurer, Allstate is reinventing protection and retirement to help nearly 16 million households insure what they have today and better prepare for tomorrow. Consumers access Allstate insurance products (auto, home, life and retirement) and services through Allstate agencies, independent agencies, and Allstate exclusive financial representatives in the U.S. and Canada, as well as via www.allstate.com and 1-800 Allstate®. For an overview of the other Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Polls, visit www.theheartlandvoice.com.
About National Journal Group
National Journal is Washington's premier source for 360-degree insight on politics and policy. With up-to-the-minute breaking news and analysis at NationalJournal.com, the essential intelligence of National Journal Daily, the knowledge and depth of National Journal magazine, and the comprehensive campaign coverage of National Journal Hotline, National Journal delivers everything you need to know to stay ahead of the curve in Washington.
About FTI Consulting
FTI Consulting, Inc. is a global business advisory firm dedicated to helping organizations protect and enhance enterprise value in an increasingly complex legal, regulatory and economic environment. With more than 3,900 employees located in 24 countries, FTI Consulting professionals work closely with clients to anticipate, illuminate and overcome complex business challenges in areas such as investigations, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory issues, reputation management, strategic communications and restructuring. The company generated $1.58 billion in revenues during fiscal year 2012. More information can be found at www.fticonsulting.com.
SOURCE The Allstate Corporation