If Polls Ruled: Should public opinion decide policy?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series If Polls Ruled
President Obama greets congressional pages at State of the Union

President Barack Obama greets House and Senate Pages as he departs the House Chamber after delivering the State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon released for public use.)

Would our system of government work better if public opinion ruled? Republicans and Democrats can’t agree, but a majority of Americans agree on a number of key policy proposals. Should public opinion set policy?

One way to look at this is to examine public support of the proposals Obama outlined in his State of the Union (SOTU) address. Gallup analysts have done just that for 10 key proposals. This week, we’ll examine two each day.

Today, we look at proposals related to economic policy.

Do Americans want to raise the minimum wage? In his SOTU address, Obama urged Congress to raise it. Gallup last asked about this issue in November 2013. Then, three quarters of Americans (76%) were in favor. A January 2014 Pew poll found similar levels of support.

Do Americans want to strengthen labor unions? Right-to-work laws weaken unions. Obama said that we need laws to strengthen unions. Gallup reports that a majority of Americans (53%) approve rather than disapprove of unions. Since 1936, Americans have been more pro-union than anti-union. But, Gallup polls also show that an even larger majority of Americans (71%) favor right-to-work laws.

The full impact of right-to-work laws is yet to be determined. Michigan is now a right-to-work state. Union membership fell sharply in 2014, reports the Detroit News. The drop is attributed to the law.

Do you support raising the minimum wage?
Would you like to see laws that strengthen labor unions?
Should polls rule?

Share your thoughts …

Share this column on Facebook or by email. You’re also free to print it out and share it that way.

Comments: (2)
Categories: Uncategorized

Financial Insecurity: Better times ahead? For whom?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Financial Insecurity
US Income of Top 1 percent

PERCENTAGE OF U.S. INCOME CONTROLLED BY THE TOP 1 PERCENT OF AMERICANS. The trend is clear even if the exact percentage earned by the “Top 1%” depends on the specific economic formula used to build the chart. Here are three formulas for charting the trend: BLUE is a scale developed by economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez to chart the rise in pre-tax income. RED is a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scale charting pre-tax income. GREEN is CBO’s after-tax chart.

We live in a time of record levels of economic inequality. Many Americans are financially insecure, unable to pay their bills, relying on government assistance, and lacking savings or retirement accounts. But are better times ahead?

This week, we’ve focused on financial insecurity, drawing on a new survey by the Pew Research Center. The big finding is that financial insecurity leads to political disengagement. The most financially insecure are unlikely to vote and don’t express preferences for Republican or Democratic candidates. This is true for the general public and for white Americans. And, the most financially insecure Americans believe that corporations make too much profit.

But optimism is on the upswing. Here are three big indicators that better economic times are ahead:

Now is a good time to find a quality job. Gallup’s January 2015 survey shows that 45% of Americans think so. This is the result of an upward trend that started from a low of 8% in November 2011. It’s close to the highest figure Gallup has reported (48% in January 2007).

Personal satisfaction is trending upward: Gallup reports that 85% of Americans now say they are satisfied with the way things are going in their personal lives, which is the highest figure Gallup’s seen since before the recession.

Economic confidence is at a record high, according to Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index. Gallup started the Index in 2008.

The big question, of course, is whether the economic recovery will trickle down to the most financially insecure Americans.

Do you see better economic times ahead?

Do you think the recovery will trickle down?

Or, do you think that the recovery will mainly benefit the middle and upper classes?

Share your thoughts …

Share this column on Facebook or by email. You’re also free to print it out and share it that way.

Comments: (1)
Categories: Uncategorized

Financial Insecurity: Are financially insecure whites apathetic?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Financial Insecurity
A Vote Republican sign in rural Texas

A GOP campaign sign in rural Texas. Provided for public use by Billy Hathorn via Wikimedia Commons.

Do white voters shun Democrats in favor of Republicans? After the 2014 elections, many analysts were saying yes—Democrats were not as appealing to white voters, especially the white working class. But reality is more complex, once we factor in different levels of financial security.

The most financially secure white voters did favor Republican candidates before the election, according to the Pew survey we’ve consulted all week. But it was a slim majority—just 51%. Just over a third favored Democratic candidates.

What are the preferences of the most financially insecure white voters? Their preference for Democratic candidates (37% in favor) is about the same as the most financially secure white voters (39% in favor). These two groups differ dramatically in their support of Republican candidates. Only 21% of the bottom group preferred Republican candidates. More than twice as many voters in the top group favor Republicans as well.

Voter apathy is the biggest—and most startling—difference between financially secure white voters and financially insecure white voters. Only 10% of the top group didn’t express a preference for Republican or Democratic candidates. Forty-one percent of the bottom group didn’t express a preference one way or the other.

Voter apathy isn’t a monopoly of financially insecure white voters. The same is true among the general public: those who have trouble paying their bills, depend on government assistance, and don’t have a checking, savings, or retirement account are simply disengaged from the political process.

Why are financially insecure whites apathetic?

How do we explain voter apathy in the general public?

Express your viewpoint …

Share this column on Facebook or by email. You’re also free to print it out and share it that way..

Comments: (1)
Categories: Uncategorized

Financial Insecurity: Do the insecure hate business?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Financial Insecurity
Occupy Wall Street 99 percenters

OCCUPY WALL STREET 2011. This is one of many photographs by David Shankbone that were uploaded that year into Wikimedia Commons for public use.

Remember “Occupy Wall Street”? This protest movement focused on record levels of economic inequality and proffered the catchphrase “We are the 99%” to highlight the huge share of wealth enjoyed by the top 1%.

We haven’t heard much about the movement lately. But financial insecurity is still with us. Are the most insecure still anti-business?

The most financially secure Americans are not uniformly pro-business. In fact, just a slim majority (51%) say that “most corporations make a fair and reasonable amount of profit,” according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center. However, 46% disagree and say that “business corporations make too much profit.”

At the other end of the scale, attitudes about business are different. Only a third (32%) say that corporations make fair profits, while two-thirds (65%) say that they make too much profit.

We see the mirror image in opinions about government inefficiency. Almost two-thirds of the most financially secure Americans say that “government is almost always wasteful and inefficient.” Just a third of these Americans say that “government does a better job than people give it credit for.” The most financially insecure Americans are equally divided between these two positions.

Do you think that business corporations make fair and reasonable profits?

Is government almost always wasteful and inefficient?

Your voice matters

Share this column on Facebook or by email. You’re also free to print it out and share it that way..

Comments: (0)
Categories: Uncategorized

Financial Insecurity: Does insecurity make you a Democrat?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Financial Insecurity
Polling by Pew on political preferences by financial security

Click this Pew graphic to visit Pew’s website and read the entire report on this poll.

The rich vote Republican and the poor vote for Democrats, right? That’s what stereotype says. How true is it?

Reality is a lot more complicated than the stereotype.

Almost half of the most financially secure Americans (49%) prefer Republican candidates—but 42% of this well-off category favor Democratic candidates, according to results from a new survey by the Pew Research Center on financial security. Only 10% don’t express a preference.

Americans in the most financially insecure group have different preferences, but not what you might think. These Americans have a lot of financial difficulties, rely on government assistance, and don’t have checking or savings accounts. You would think that their financial insecurity would compel them to favor Democrats because Democrats promote policies that help the poor, right?

Well, the most financially insecure do tend to prefer Democrats—42% of this group says so. Only 17% prefer Republican candidates. But—and here’s the startling finding—41% don’t seem to care one way or the other.

Even if they do have a preference for one political party over the other, the financially insecure are unlikely to vote at all. Their preference for Democrats doesn’t translate into an advantage for Democratic candidates because these voters don’t show up at the polls. The financially insecure are disengaged from the political process.

What do you think of the fact that the most financially secure Americans drive politics?
How can we engage financially insecure Americans in the political process?

Express yourself

Share this column on Facebook or by email. You’re also free to print it out and share it that way. And, if you haven’t done so already, please help support the OurValues Project by ordering a copy of United America.

Comments: (1)
Categories: Uncategorized

Financial Insecurity: Does it drive our political choices?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Financial Insecurity
Trickling down prosperity

TRICKLING DOWN PROSPERITY? (This photo illustration was made by RevisorWeb and uploaded for public use via Wikimedia Commons.)

The economy is stronger now than it has been for years, but are you better off?

Many Americans are finding that the economic recovery has not trickled down to them. Do you feel financially secure or insecure? Does your financial status influence your politics?

About a quarter of Americans are in the most financially secure group, according to a just-released report by Pew. These Americans don’t report any financial troubles, such as problems paying their bills. They don’t rely on governments benefits, such as food stamps or Medicaid. They have a checking account, savings account, credit card, and some sort of retirement program.

At the other end, Americans in the most financially insecure group report a lot of financial troubles and difficulties, tend to reply on governments assistance, and don’t have key financial instruments like a checking or savings account.

Who tends to be financially insecure? The most financial insecure tend to be women, non-whites, and those who are unmarried, less educated, and younger. Having a health issue that limits the ability to work adds to financial insecurity, Pew finds.

Financial security and insecurity have big political implications. The most financially insecure tend to be disengaged with the political process. Just over half (54%) of the most insecure group were registered to vote in 2014, compared with 94% the most financially secure. Only 20% of the most financially insecure group likely voted in 2014, compared to 63% of the most secure.

Basic political knowledge also varies by financial security. Over six of ten (62%) of the most financially secure Americans know which political party controls the U.S. House and Senate, compared with only 26% of those who are the most financially insecure.

How financially secure to you feel?
Are you surprised that the most financially insecure are politically disengaged?
What does their political disengagement mean for the democratic process?

Comments: (1)
Categories: Uncategorized

Hopes for Children: Why are parents in rich nations pessimistic?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Hopes for Children
CLICK THE CHART to visit the Pew website and learn more about these reports.

CLICK THE CHART to visit the Pew website and learn more about these reports.

Rising affluence usually translates into optimism about the future. One of the chief findings from the vast World Values Surveys is that economic development generally elevates happiness, well-being, and satisfaction with life.

Why, then, are so many people in affluent societies pessimistic about their children’s future?

The majority of Americans and Europeans don’t believe today’s children will be better off financially than their parents, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. In fact, the citizens of most of the countries with advanced economies are pretty gloomy about their children’s prospects. Conversely, the citizens of many emerging-market societies see a bright future for their children.

The reason for these differences is the rate of economic development. This is shown clearly in this graph from Pew. Those who live in nations with the fastest GDP growth are optimistic about their children’s future. China and Vietnam are prime examples. Nations with slow growth (like the US) or negative growth (like Italy or Spain) exhibit lots of pessimism.

Other factors matter, of course. Argentineans, Lebanese, and Tanzanians are experiencing fast GDP growth, but they are less optimistic than they should be, given their rate of economic change. Conversely, Ukrainians have experienced negative economic growth but they are more optimistic than nations with similar economic experiences.

How optimistic or pessimistic are you about the future prospects of today’s children?

Are your surprised that so many people in affluent societies are pessimistic about their children’s future?

Comments: (0)
Categories: Uncategorized