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Americans More Optimistic About Future of Next Generation

Americans More Optimistic About Future of Next Generation

Story Highlights

  • 61% think it is likely today's youth will live better than their parents
  • This percentage is the highest since 2010, up seven points since 2016
  • 70% of Republicans have optimistic view, up 29 points since 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- About six in 10 Americans say it is very or somewhat likely that today's young people will have a better life than their parents did. The latest reading marks continued improvement since the low of 44% in 2011 but is still not back to the level of 66% measured in February 2008.

Likelihood That Today's Youth Can Live Better Than Their Parents.

The latest results are based on a March 19-25 Gallup poll. Since 2008, Gallup has been gauging Americans' optimism about the next generation's likelihood of surpassing their parents' living standard. Before that, the same question was asked by The New York Times and CBS News between 1995 and 2003. The highest reading for the question in that series was recorded in July 1999 and December 2001, when 71% of Americans said it was likely young people would live better than their parents.

Optimism fell during the 2007-2009 recession and ensuing periods of high unemployment, hitting a low in 2011. As the unemployment rate began to improve in 2012, so too has the public's optimism about future generations' economic opportunities.

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Republican Optimism Has Surged

Over time, during periods of both higher and lower unemployment, Gallup has found persistent differences in optimism about future generations' opportunities among political party groups. The latest rise in overall optimism about children's chances to surpass their parents' success is largely attributable to a 29-percentage-point surge in positivity among Republicans and Republican leaners (to 70%) as Barack Obama's term ended and Donald Trump took office.

At the same time, Democrats' and Democratic leaners' optimism about the next generation's chances at success fell 13 points (to 55%). Democrats' more tempered reaction to Trump could be related to the news that economic indicators are showing signs of improvement.

Republicans Now More Likely Than Democrats to Think Today's Youth Will Live Better Than Parents

A similar, though muted, reversal in Republicans' opinions about the likelihood of children having better lives than their parents occurred toward the end of George W. Bush's presidency and the beginning of Obama's. Republicans' optimism fell from 72% in January 2008 to 51% in March 2009.

Bottom Line

Americans are generally feeling optimistic about the direction of the economy, and recent Gallup polling suggests that Americans still think the American dream is alive. Just as a healthy majority of Americans now think it is possible to get ahead through hard work, so too, do they believe it is likely that today's young people will have a better life than their parents did.

While the Trump administration asserts that it is "Making America Great Again," and a majority of Republicans stand behind him, Democrats are more skeptical about how the next generation will fare than they were when Obama was president. Still, given the current economic conditions, Democrats remain more likely than not to view the chances of the next generation optimistically. Should the nation's economy worsen, history shows that the public's assessment of opportunities for the next generation will also turn more pessimistic.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 19-25, 2018, on the Gallup U.S. Poll, with a random sample of 1,503 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Poll works.

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