Survey Finds Americans Overlook Their Economic Condition to Support Their Political Party

Panelists at the Brookings Institute release of the Public Religion Research Institute's 2014 American Values Survey in Washington D.C. share their thoughts of the survey's findings.
Panelists at the Brookings Institute release of the Public Religion Research Institute's 2014 American Values Survey in Washington D.C. share their thoughts of the survey's findings. | (PHOTO: THE CHRISTIAN POST | SAMUEL SMITH)

Americans are likely to use politics to assess the nation's economic condition rather than their personal financial experience, according to a recent report from a liberal polling organization.

Nearly six out of 10 African-Americans report living in a household with "moderate" to "high levels" of economic insecurity, but about 83 percent of African-Americans say they feel as though the American economy has "gotten better" or "stayed the same" in the last two years, according the Public Religion Research Institute's 2014 American Values Survey released on Tuesday.

By contrast, the survey found that only 56 percent of Caucasians feel the American economy has improved or stayed the same in the past two years despite the fact that only 36 percent of Caucasians report living a household with moderate to high economic security.

The survey also found that although just 39 percent of Democrats report being in "excellent" or "good" financial condition, 48 percent of Democrats believe that the economy has "gotten better" in the last two years. On the flip side, 52 percent of Republicans reported being in "excellent" or "good" financial shape, while only 15 percent of Republicans believe the economy has improved in the last two years.

"I would love to see a focus group to really sit down with minority voters as to why the level of optimism is higher," MSNBC talk show host Joy Reid said at a panel discussion at the Brookings Institution discussing the survey. "I think the straightforward answer is that for African-Americans, the Barack Obama administration is really a source of personal pride and they still support the administration and will see the economy through the lens of that support."

"People are divided over what they want the role of government to be but their attitudes toward the role of government are not influenced very much at all by their social class or by their income level. It is surprising," Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University and a Democrat, added during the discussion.

Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a Republican, agreed with Abramowitz that the Republican Party needs to make changes to its anti-government ideology to appeal to the American electorate. He said if black voters and other minorities continue to vote like they did in 2012 and 2008, the Republican Party doesn't stand much of a chance in future national elections.

"The question as a Republican strategist is do you want to continue to do the same the same things that would continue to keep the vote shares at the percentages among each of these groups or do you want to do something different," Olsen said.

While the survey found that many ethnic groups and 86 percent of Democrats favor policies that are designed to close the gap between the rich and the poor, only 42 percent of Republicans and 44 percent of Tea Party respondents said they feel the "government should do more to reduce the gap between rich and poor."

The fifth annual American Values Survey polled 4,507 respondents. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.

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