A powerful new poll pulls back the curtain on fear, frustration

In a post last week about the future of the Democratic Party in the South, I warned that those Democrats who advocate giving up on the South in effect advocate giving up on white working-class voters, which would have implications well beyond Dixie.

A new poll on attitudes about the economy, published in The Washington Post, provides a lot more fodder for that discussion. It found that white Americans are considerably more pessimistic about the nation’s economic future, considerably more frustrated and, not surprisingly, considerably less supportive of Obama and the Democrats. Those attitudes were particularly prevalent among white Americans with less than a college education.

As the Post writers describe it:

A mere 10 percent of whites without college degrees say they are satisfied with the nation’s current economic situation. Most – 56 percent – say the country’s best days are in the past, and more, 61 percent, say it will be a long time before the economy begins to recover.

Fully 43 percent of non-college whites say “hard work and determination are no guarantees of success,” and nearly half doubt that they have enough education and skills to compete in the job market.

The Post didn’t release data breaking down responses between college-educated and non-college white Americans, but the demographic data it did release was fascinating nonetheless. Take a look at the difference in economic optimism:

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The loss of faith in important institutions such as government and Wall Street was also considerably stronger among white Americans than among their fellow Americans.

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However, perhaps the starkest divisions came when pollsters asked Americans whether they thought the government was doing too much, too little, or the right amount to help a series of groups, from their own families to Wall Street. White Americans were far more willing than black and Hispanic Americans to say the government wasn’t doing enough to help them, and was doing too much to help the wealthy and Wall Street.

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I think those numbers help to illuminate a whole range of political phenomena, from the labor standoff in Wisconsin to the Tea Party movement to last fall’s midterms. Even though statistics demonstrate that black and Hispanic Americans are getting hit hardest in this recession in terms of jobs and income lost, it is white Americans who feel most vulnerable, most frustrated, most pessimistic and most in need of a government looking out for their interests.

– Jay Bookman

341 comments Add your comment

TaxPayer

February 22nd, 2011
9:15 am

It looks as though that poll is consistent with the fears posted here by the white-wingers. Oops, I mean right-wingers.

Bosch

February 22nd, 2011
9:22 am

POLLS!!! YES!!!

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
9:24 am

“A mere 10 percent of whites without college degrees say they are satisfied with the nation’s current economic situation”

and of those, I’d love to see how many are FOX devotees …

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
9:24 am

Bosch – polls and charts and graphs … OHMY!!!

Bosch

February 22nd, 2011
9:26 am

“and was doing too much to help the wealthy and Wall Street.”

And? It’s the wealthy who create JOBS!!!!!!!

(I’m getting good at this wingnut impression, don’t ‘cha think?)

Bosch

February 22nd, 2011
9:27 am

” it is white Americans who feel most vulnerable, most frustrated, most pessimistic and most in need of a government looking out for their interests”

Because we all know that being a white man in this country can be so hard.

RW-(the original)

February 22nd, 2011
9:28 am

I guess powerful is one word for this poll. Strange, weird, and laughable are a few others. The only hint at the demographic breakdown seems to be that over 25% of the respondents were non college whites. I have no idea whether that would be an accurate percentage, but without knowing how the other 75% breaks it doesn’t matter.

/drive by

jm

February 22nd, 2011
9:29 am

Jay, I think it can be a bit difficult to interpret the final results beyond gauging the frustration levels for voting purposes. What this group of voters want is not clear from the poll.

“most in need of a government looking out for their interests” might be a fine conclusion from the poll, but the “interests” of this group might be less government and regulation, not more. Impossible to know from this poll.

Road Scholar

February 22nd, 2011
9:29 am

Isn’t that what Fox News and the republicans have told them to say? White America feels threatened by change. Guess what? It will continue to accelerate!

Dave R.

February 22nd, 2011
9:30 am

Polls! And PICTURES!

If you could just add crayons, the libs on here would be in heaven . . .

Bosch

February 22nd, 2011
9:31 am

What kills me about many of those who are screaming about how the Obama Administration has ruined their lives, and socialism, are the ones who are the most better off in this country. In my opinion, of course….

Road Scholar

February 22nd, 2011
9:31 am

Bosch: I feel another business tax break a-coming! Or it may be gas?

Bosch

February 22nd, 2011
9:31 am

Dave R.,

Nah, crayons break too easy — finger paint….there’s the ticket.

Dave R.

February 22nd, 2011
9:33 am

Maybe paint by numbers . . .? :)

Road Scholar

February 22nd, 2011
9:33 am

Dave R: I hear the Repubs figured out how to use crayons! But using them on their computer screens seems to block out what they are trying to see!! Notice I didn’t say read and comprehend!

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
9:33 am

“Because we all know that being a white man in this country can be so hard.”

well, the man has been keeping him down, doncha know …

Bosch

February 22nd, 2011
9:34 am

Dave R.,

NO!! We can NOT be told where to paint what color where — that’s just nuts.

USMC dawg

February 22nd, 2011
9:34 am

Road Scholar

February 22nd, 2011
9:34 am

Tommy Maddox

February 22nd, 2011
9:34 am

Uh oh – bad poll for the Left – blame Fox News.

Predictable.

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
9:35 am

dave – “If you could just add crayons, the libs on here would be in heaven ”

we embrace data

you eschew it.

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
9:37 am

tommy – questioning = blaming???

wow. tough crowd.

Dave R.

February 22nd, 2011
9:37 am

“Even though statistics demonstrate that black and Hispanic Americans are getting hit hardest in this recession in terms of jobs and income lost, it is white Americans who feel most vulnerable, most frustrated, most pessimistic and most in need of a government looking out for their interests.”

If I were CT, I’d write: “That’s because white folk have more to be taken”.

Dave R.

February 22nd, 2011
9:41 am

“we embrace data

you eschew it.”

If polls were actually “data”, I’d be fine with them, USinUK. But ALL polls are skewed to the result desired by the people commissioning the poll. Therefore, I treat them with a health dose of suspicion.

TnGelding

February 22nd, 2011
9:41 am

We’re gullible, fickle, stupid and change with the wind. The media is complicit by letting the GOP loons control the agenda.

AmVet

February 22nd, 2011
9:42 am

Hey Paul, remember how we’ve laughed at the fact that 20% of people will believe anything?

Look at that number of white people who think BHO is doing too little to help wealthy Americans and the upper class.

Hysterical…

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
9:43 am

data – “If polls were actually “data”, I’d be fine with them”

poll results ARE data …

and, if you think the poll is skewed, then tell us where.

Jefferson

February 22nd, 2011
9:43 am

When rich vs poor don’t work, do they try white vs black?

Dave R.

February 22nd, 2011
9:46 am

“poll results ARE data … ”

Only if “opinion” is now considered “fact”.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by fill in the blank and Alisa T. Jackson, Jay Bookman AJC. Jay Bookman AJC said: New poll finds white Americans feel much more pessimistic, vulnerable and in need of govt help; http://bit.ly/hMd3MZ [...]

BADA BING

February 22nd, 2011
9:47 am

In the Tuesday AJC….Kanye West is invited to the Kate/William wedding. Well, he is a Royal Pain in the …..

StJ

February 22nd, 2011
9:47 am

Wonder what the poll will look like when gas hits $5 a gallon…

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
9:48 am

dave – ah. no. if you’re asking what people think, the cumulative statistics ARE data.

their opinions, themselves, are not facts – but saying that 20% of white people think that the gummint should do more to help rich people actually ARE data.

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
9:48 am

Bada – the pub landlord who owns the Middleton’s local is invited … now, that’s cool.

jm

February 22nd, 2011
9:50 am

Yes, they need government help. They need government to get out of the way.

Jack

February 22nd, 2011
9:50 am

I think maybe Bookman is going to require posters in here to have a college degree. I’m one of those GOP loons who would know to vote against liberals regardless of how much education I have.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 22nd, 2011
9:51 am

Pretty good essay, pretty neutral analysis. Writing as an over-educated over-paid white guy, I affirm that the current administration has engaged too little beneficial activities for the country’s economics and for its foreign standing in the world. I also believe the current administration has engaged too much activity adverse to the country’s economics and for its foreign standing in the world.

I always thought President Carter was the near-perfect upside-down barometer; whatever policy he embraced was almost always the exact wrong policy for the good of the country. I have a similar perception of our current president, except that I credit Chauncey for keeping most of the Bush administration policies on a narrow element of the foreign policy, Iraq and Afghanistan and GTMO.

Dave R.

February 22nd, 2011
9:52 am

Statistics borne of opinion = unreliable data.

TaxPayer

February 22nd, 2011
9:53 am

Jay, I think it can be a bit difficult to interpret the final results beyond gauging the frustration levels for voting purposes. What this group of voters want is not clear from the poll.

You mean the part where they say, “We don’t want government in our lives and keep your hands off my Social Security.” Is that one of the parts that is not clear.

jm

February 22nd, 2011
9:53 am

Jay, how would you characterize Deal’s proposal on HOPE? It looks like some progress to me, other parts “kicking the can down the road” because we are way overdue for the incorporation of SAT scores into HOPE.

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
9:53 am

dave – 9:52 – well, if you’re trying to prove something scientifically, you’re right.

if you’re trying to take the temper of the nation, it’s right on the £££

Jay

February 22nd, 2011
9:54 am

54 percent of white Americans say government is doing too LITTLE to help, jm.

jm

February 22nd, 2011
9:54 am

Taxpayer 9:53 – you’re chock-a-block full of useful commentary as always. :)

Jefferson

February 22nd, 2011
9:54 am

Businesses will have to pony up to pay the unemployment bill, 630m.

AmVet

February 22nd, 2011
9:55 am

Jefferson, in case you missed it, they are generally one and the same.

Jack, tons of people with college degrees are dumbarses. It is no guarantee of intellect.

USMC dawg, thanks for the link. Good news…

Fully 43 percent of non-college whites say “hard work and determination are no guarantees of success…

Unless one moves overseas where the jobs went…

Deep Throat

February 22nd, 2011
9:55 am

Polls, smolls, the fact remains the economy sucks, unemployment sucks, it don’t take a degree, a race, religion or Bookman for anyone to know this.

jm

February 22nd, 2011
9:56 am

Jay 9:54 – yes, on closer reading, you’re right. The dangers of speed reading….

Well, fun times for Dems. Wonder what they’ll do next to try to set things right….

TnGelding

February 22nd, 2011
9:56 am

..and trolls!

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 22nd, 2011
9:56 am

Dear Jay @ 9:54, I respectfully believe jm’s 9:50 post is not inconsistent with the “54% say government is doing too little to help.” I am part of the 54%. Most everything the government could do to help would be in the form of subtraction.

TaxPayer

February 22nd, 2011
9:57 am

jm

February 22nd, 2011
9:54 am
Taxpayer 9:53 – you’re chock-a-block full of useful commentary as always.

Well, I do try, at least.

Jay

February 22nd, 2011
9:58 am

No, Ragnar. You would then be in the category of those saying government is doing too much. Too little cannot be redefined at your whim to mean too much.

TaxPayer

February 22nd, 2011
9:58 am

Most everything the government could do to help would be in the form of subtraction.

Your revised social security payment will now incorporate a negative sign.

Dave R.

February 22nd, 2011
9:58 am

“if you’re trying to take the temper of 1,000 people,”

But “the nation”? Don’t think so. Too many variables in a small sample.

Jefferson

February 22nd, 2011
9:58 am

If you have a job, the ecomomy is as always. Just go out on Friday night to a resteraunt on say Barrett Pkwy, lines and crowds. Its a rat race, and some rats win more than others.

jm

February 22nd, 2011
9:59 am

Jay – taking the next step. I guess I might interpret this as the frustration from working class white voters suffering from the globalization of labor markets and the improvements in productivity from technology reducing the number of unskilled entry level jobs. As always, education makes a huge difference.

If Dems want to help working class folks, they should keep working on improving the education system. Isolationism, stopping free trade, etc etc are just speed bumps that don’t stop anything on the road to change.

Nice Guy

February 22nd, 2011
9:59 am

Bosch – “Because we all know that being a white man in this country can be so hard.”

Gag.

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
10:00 am

oh, Jay … there you go again … expecting words to mean something …

Deep Throat

February 22nd, 2011
10:00 am

For most of a year and a half Jay and the Left called the Republican party the party of no, I quess we can now start calling the Democrat party the Chicken Sh– Party.

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
10:00 am

dave – it’s called a sample.

just like a map isn’t 1 mile = 1 mile, polls work by sampling the population.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 22nd, 2011
10:01 am

Dear Jay @ 9:58, then I affirm that the survey is worded badly,because i would have placed myself in the camp of wanting the government to “act.”. I do not want the government to do “nothing,” which seems to me to be the opposite of the question. I want affirmatively-less activity by the government. Had the question been asked to “inform,” it would have asked whether government should “do more, do less, or stay the same.” The phrasing-bias prohibits reliable analysis.

Dave R.

February 22nd, 2011
10:02 am

Trust me, USinUK, I understand the meaning of polls and samples.

I just discount them when it comes to making sweeping conclusions, and more importantly, coming up with government policy.

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
10:03 am

jeebus, Ragnar, I hope you stretched before you wrote your 10:01 –

that much twisting could cause an injury!

jm

February 22nd, 2011
10:03 am

Ragnar 9:56 – yes. But these polls are probably more just about voter frustration with their current economic predicament than any actual policy changes.

Pollsters would do better to go ask people more specific questions (although I’m sure already do). Like “is there too much government regulation of business”?

Like here:
Americans More Likely to Say Government Doing Too Much
http://www.gallup.com/poll/123101/americans-likely-say-government-doing-too-much.aspx

and here

Americans Leery of Too Much Gov’t Regulation of Business
http://www.gallup.com/poll/125468/americans-leery-govt-regulation-business.aspx

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
10:04 am

dave – and what policy is being proposed from the above?

it’s just an opinion poll.

BADA BING

February 22nd, 2011
10:05 am

I think it is safe to say that Cristina won’t be singing at the Royal Wedding. God will save the Queen from that.

Nice Guy

February 22nd, 2011
10:06 am

Jay – “it is white Americans who feel most vulnerable, most frustrated, most pessimistic and most in need of a government looking out for their interests.”

I can certainly see why they would think this. While the Left-nuts scream and cry about how well White America is doing versus the poor poor pitiful pooor minorities, the perception, to some, is that the deck appears to continue to be stacked against them.

Deep Throat

February 22nd, 2011
10:06 am

We can debate whether government does to little or to much, but my arguement is government does not do the right things, they get a failing grade.

Dave R.

February 22nd, 2011
10:06 am

It is what elected officials (and opinion columnists) will DO with the poll later on to justify some government action that I worry about.

harvey

February 22nd, 2011
10:07 am

It is the whites screaming because they are having the ever increasing burden of supporting a proportionally faster growing group of entitlement/welfare slackers, and their backs are breaking and their optimism is fading. We need politicians who will actually hack away at entitlements, starting however, with doing away with unions. If we could do that we could probably get some manufacturing going in this country again.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 22nd, 2011
10:08 am

Also, dear Jay, part of the problem is the question’s focus on “the Obama administration.” The bias in the question seeks affirmation of the administration, in its “intentions” rather than focus on particular actions. A neutral question would not mention the actor, but would have been policy-oriented. “Do you think government is spending too much money on military?” “Do you think government is spending too much money on EPA?” “Do you think government should spend more money on health care?” etc. “Looking out for the interests of x” sounds O’Reillyesque, and goodness knows he is not the right person to ask an economics question.

TnGelding

February 22nd, 2011
10:09 am

Anyone not getting a good education in this country has no one to blame but themselves, myself included. We do need to recognize troubled youth earlier though and try to get them some help. That’s no to say the system doesn’t need to be radically changed.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

February 22nd, 2011
10:11 am

Dear USinUK @ 10:03, good morning, probably insufficient coffee. I envy the efficiency of jm’s mind @ 10:03, as he said the same thing I did @ 10:08 with fewer than half as many words.

@@

February 22nd, 2011
10:12 am

Hit a dead thread downstairs, so-o-o-oooo…

Did Gohmert and Poe, both Republicans from Texas, oppose the law? Last I heard, they were in agreement with you, jay. Imagine THAT…Poe, a member of the Tea Party Caucus was in agreement with YOU.

That must make YOU a RADICAL NUTJOB!!!!!

=============================

As to the last question in the poll:

Doing too much, too little or the right amount of WHAT exactly? I need specifics.

schnirt

Jay

February 22nd, 2011
10:13 am

@@, I answered downstairs.

Jimmy62

February 22nd, 2011
10:13 am

It’s interesting how polls that support Bookman’s ideas get called “powerful,” and ones that show something completely opposite of how Bookman wishes the world was run are ignored.

Deep Throat

February 22nd, 2011
10:15 am

I need specifics, grow up !

Doggone/GA

February 22nd, 2011
10:15 am

I have two books written by Linda Ellerbee. In one of them she recounts an assignment she and another reporter were given to report on the increase in crime in America. Their research indicated there had NOT BEEN an increase in crime, but there HAD been in increase in the FEAR of crime. So they did the report on that insteaed.

JF McNamara

February 22nd, 2011
10:20 am

I find it funny. Rather than punish those who put them in the situation, they are punishing the people who are making it better. The economy crashed before Obama took office under a Republican. Georgia was a solid red state before the crash yet it still occurred. Rather than try something new, they want to revert to the model that caused the calamity.

If America has peaked (which it hasn’t), it will be their refusal to change from what failed. Not what is going on now.

@@

February 22nd, 2011
10:20 am

jay:

Yes you did, but I got to compare you to a NUTJOB on two separate threads. How kewl was THAT?

Poe and Gohmert did oppose the bill, @@, but magically, both somehow managed to miss the committee meeting in which it was voted on and approved.

Funny how that happens

OoooKAY! At least Obama showed up to vote “PRESENT” while in the Illinois State Senate.

jm

February 22nd, 2011
10:21 am

In the solutions category: Our education system is a mess, and needs fixing. Wisconsin is a start, but ending monopoly-style union control isn’t the whole answer by a long shot.

Bosch

February 22nd, 2011
10:25 am

“It is the whites screaming because they are having the ever increasing burden of supporting a proportionally faster growing group of entitlement/welfare slackers”

Oh my freaking God.

Yeah, cause we all know there aren’t any white people on welfare.

Jay

February 22nd, 2011
10:26 am

Yeah, jm, Wisconsin students only rank 2nd or 3rd in the nation in both average SAT and ACT scores.

Those unions up there are ruining education.

For Real

February 22nd, 2011
10:26 am

What I find strange are those Georgians blaming democrats for the economic condition that Georgia is currently in when Georgia is clearly a red state. Republicans have been on the job the entire time during this recession yet the people of Georgia decided to vote them back into office again? How does that saying go: Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.

Bosch

February 22nd, 2011
10:26 am

Hey Paul! Heard two of your state senators this morning talking about a bill that’s probably gonna be passed allowed college kids to carry guns on campus!

Congratulations on that!!

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
10:26 am

“because they are having the ever increasing burden of supporting a proportionally faster growing group of entitlement/welfare slackers”

and I’m sure you have the data to back your claim … ???

AmVet

February 22nd, 2011
10:27 am

Bosch, I too was thinking why is harvey so timid.

Why not just come out and say what he really means?

It’s not as if it would be any great shocker.

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
10:27 am

Bosch – “allowed college kids to carry guns on campus!”

ohsweetjeebus.

as if I wasn’t glad I was no longer in university before, I DEFINITELY am now!

Bosch

February 22nd, 2011
10:29 am

Yeah, USinUK, cause we all know college kids are so rational and all. :roll:

Sometimes I stand gobsmacked at the stoopid.

Scooter (The Original)

February 22nd, 2011
10:30 am

OMG, so again it is about uneducated white southerners not supporting The Obama and the Democrats. Grow up!

Dave R.

February 22nd, 2011
10:31 am

“Yeah, jm, Wisconsin students only rank 2nd or 3rd in the nation in both average SAT and ACT scores.”

Maybe the 30% of public school teachers sending their kids to private schools are skewing those numbers higher, Jay. :D :D :D

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
10:31 am

http://www.publicagenda.org/charts/state-state-sat-and-act-scores

yeppers, Wisconsin beats the national avg in both SAT and ACT – GA does not.

http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/cr_baeo_t1.htm

also has a higher overall HS graduation rate than GA

AmVet

February 22nd, 2011
10:32 am

When it comes to gun laws there is generally one irrefutable fact.

If the police are against some proposed legislation, the cons will be for it. And vice versa.

@@

February 22nd, 2011
10:32 am

Yeah, USinUK, cause we all know college kids are so rational and all.

Probably why Obama pursued them so aggressively during his campaign.

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
10:32 am

Bosch – well, if EVERYone is packing heat, then NO ONE will get killed … isn’t that the “logic”

USinUK

February 22nd, 2011
10:33 am

@@ – good thing there’s no such organization as the “college republicans”

oh, wait …

For Real

February 22nd, 2011
10:33 am

“It is the whites screaming because they are having the ever increasing burden of supporting a proportionally faster growing group of entitlement/welfare slackers” – So, does that mean only white people have jobs and everyone else isn’t working? Does that mean no white people are on welfare? Does that mean no white people get social security/medicare benefits?

“Our education system is a mess, and needs fixing. Wisconsin is a start, but ending monopoly-style union control isn’t the whole answer by a long shot.” – No teachers union here in GA. So, where do we start in GA?

Dave R.

February 22nd, 2011
10:34 am

“Bosch – well, if EVERYone is packing heat, then NO ONE will get killed … isn’t that the “logic”.

Get your logic straight, USinUK. If everyone is packing heat, the bad guys will LIKELY get killed before they kill too may without.

Doggone/GA

February 22nd, 2011
10:35 am

“well, if EVERYone is packing heat, then NO ONE will get killed … isn’t that the “logic” ”

It is, and up to a certain point I’ve always been able to SEE some logic in there…but in practical terms I always have this vision of what amounts to a “circular firing squad”!

Mick

February 22nd, 2011
10:36 am

dave r

You argue that only the police and fire need unions, however which group are the one abusing retirement? I’ve never heard of any teacher making an exhorbitant retirement. The police and fireman on the other hand can retire in 20 years and pad their last five years with overtime. Seems to me that’s where the problem lies. It seems like the teachers get the abuse because the majority are women.

For Real

February 22nd, 2011
10:37 am

“@@ – good thing there’s no such organization as the “college republicans”

oh, wait …

Funny!