Poll: Whites pessimistic on economyBy JENNIFER EPSTEIN
The prolonged economic downturn has made white Americans – especially those without a college degree – more pessimistic than blacks and Hispanics, and has driven them toward the Republican Party, a new survey has found.
Half of all so-called “non-college whites” identified themselves as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents, including 42 percent who call themselves conservatives, according to data released Tuesday from a poll conducted by The Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University.
Whites surveyed in the poll were generally more negative than blacks and Hispanics about their own economic prospects and those for the country, and less educated whites were the most negative. President Barack Obama struggled to capture the non-college white vote in 2008, with then-Sen. Hillary Clinton beating him by a 2-to-1 margin among that demographic in the Democratic primaries. Republican Sen. John McCain won 58 percent of the non-college white vote in 2008, while Obama got the support of 40 percent of the demographic.
Sixty-eight percent of blacks and 46 percent of Hispanics said that Democrats understand Americans’ economic problems better than Republicans, while 27 percent of whites said the same. Whites, though, are more positive about the GOP, with 38 percent of those surveyed saying Republicans feel Americans’ financial pain better than Democrats. Just 8 percent of blacks and 19 percent of Hispanics said the same.
Non-college whites were less positive about the Obama administration’s efforts to improve the economy than were more educated whites – 14 percent of non-college whites said the president’s economic policies are making the economy better, but double that percentage of college-educated whites said the same.
Overall, 18 percent of whites said they thought the president’s economic policies were helping the economy improve, while 59 percent of blacks and 36 percent of Hispanics said Obama’s policies were helping the economy get better.
One in 10 whites without a college degree said they are satisfied with the economy, while about 60 percent said the country’s best days are behind it and that it will be a long time before the economy begins to recover. Blacks were more optimistic, with 35 percent of those surveyed saying the country’s best years were in the past, and 59 percent saying better days are still to come.
Whites are also downtrodden about their own economic prospects than they have been in years past, with 41 percent of whites surveyed saying that “hard work is no guarantee of success” in the U.S. economy, and 43 percent of non-college whites saying the same.