Most Americans don’t think life will be better for today’s kids

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  • A new Gallup poll finds Americans aren’t optimistic about the economy, with optimism at a record low.
  • Americans were asked if they think life will be better for the next generation, and most don’t think so.
  • Republicans especially had a decline in optimism, as did higher-earners.

If you feel like the vibes are off, you’re not alone. 

Since 1996, the New York Times, CBS News, and Gallup have all polled Americans on how optimistic they are for the next generation’s economic circumstances. The latest poll from Gallup finds that optimism is near-record lows in 2022, and has dropped by 18 points from 2019, the last time Americans were surveyed.

In a survey of 812 adults from September 1 to 16, Gallup asked: “In America, each generation has tried to have a better life than their parents, with a better living standard, better homes, a better education, and so on. How likely do you think it is that today’s youth will have a better life than their parents–very likely, somewhat likely, somewhat unlikely, or very unlikely?”

The majority of respondents responded that it was either somewhat or very unlikely — 57% in total. Just 13% said it was very likely, and 29% said it was somewhat likely. That’s technically the lowest since polling firms started asking this question in 1996, although it falls within two points of 2011’s measure, Gallup senior editor Megan Brenan told Insider.

“It’s kind of a bleak picture in the midst of this high inflation and this challenging period that we’re coming off of  economically,” Brenan said.

Americans feeling bad isn’t new. The recovery from the coronavirus-induced recession has been filled with tumultuous twists and turns, leading to a “vibecession” at the end of the summer, in which Americans have told pollsters that they view the economy as dismal despite ongoing strong job growth and consumption.

Making things worse is the “sugar crash” that the economy is about to face, as a suite of federal programs that propped up Americans financially — economic boosts like enhanced unemployment, low interest rates, and direct checks — finally fully fade. Right now voters are most concerned about the economy, something that could spell trouble for Democrats heading into midterm elections. 

Republicans drove the drop in optimism, with just a third saying that they think the next generation will fare better. But Democrats — the majority of whom do think things will get better — still saw their optimism at its lowest-ever.

“Republicans, specifically on this measure, their tendency to say that the next generation is likely to have a better chance than their parents really has depended on who’s in the White House,” Brenan. “It has, for Democrats, less so — pretty much significantly less so.”

Confidence in the economic future is actually higher among lower-earners, according to the Gallup poll. Among households with an annual income below $40,000, the majority of respondents are optimistic. “You would assume that that’s because they realize that they’re struggling and they’re hopeful that the next generation would be able to surpass them,” Brenan said of optimism among lower-earners. 

Brenan said that the income divide could also be a partisan effect, as higher-income Americans can have more of a Republican lean.

Low optimism among more affluent respondents runs counter to how the highest-earning Americans are actually faring economically. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, American families in the top 10% of earners held 72% of the country’s wealth in 2019. Meanwhile, the bottom half of families held just 2% of all of the country’s wealth in total. It’s no secret that the wealthiest Americans saw their fortunes balloon throughout the pandemic

Optimism has traditionally fallen during times of economic struggle, when unemployment and inflation are high and the country is in recession. Right now, just one of those seems to be happening as inflation remains uncomfortably high while unemployment holds near record lows — yet another signal that the post-vaccine economy and Americans’ feelings on it are still not settled.

“An improvement in the economy is probably the only thing that’s going to really turn things around on a measure like this one,” Brenan said.

Read the original article on Business Insider