According to a new poll by the Associated Press, African Americans and Hispanics are now more confident about their ability to improve their economic future than Whites. This shift in optimism comes despite the fact that minorities have been disproportionately affected by the lagging economy.
After years of polling Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics, The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that White Americans’ confidence in their economic future has taken a sharp downturn in the last decade, while Black and Hispanics’ optimism continue to rise. The gap in in confidence between Whites and minorities is at its widest margin since 1987.
The AP-NORC analysis of data from the General Social Survey, a long-running biannual survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, found just 46 percent of Whites say their family has a good chance of improving their living standard given the way things are in America, the lowest level in surveys conducted since 1987. In contrast, 71 percent of Blacks and 73 percent of Hispanics express optimism of an improved life — the biggest gap with Whites since the survey began asking.
Blacks and Hispanics diverged sharply from Whites on this question following Obama’s election as the nation’s first Black president in 2008. Economic optimism among non-Whites rose, while Whites’ optimism declined.
Blacks’ hopefulness isn’t limited to the future; they also express a positive outlook on their current financial standing.
For the first time since 1972, the share of Blacks who reported that their financial situation had improved in the last few years surpassed that of whites. The tip occurred in 2010, when the percentage of Whites reporting an improvement to their financial situation fell to 24 percent vs. 30 percent for blacks.
One reason for the increased optimism among minorities? The election of Barack Obama.
The AP found “Blacks’ optimism since Obama’s election was on average 39 percentage points higher than whites’ assessment of the country’s direction. That represents a reversal from earlier in the decade, when White optimism exceeded that of Blacks by an average 18 percentage points.”
Despite the rise in optimism, unemployment rates for Blacks and Hispanics have consistently remained higher than their White counterparts since the recession began, which begs the question: Why are minorities so optimistic about their economic future when they have been disproportionately affected by the down economy?