By Mike Lillis - 10/24/11 09:00 AM EDT
More than two-thirds of voters say the United States is declining, and a clear majority think the next generation will be worse off than this one, according to the results of a new poll commissioned by The Hill.
A resounding 69 percent of respondents said the country is “in decline,” the survey found, while 57 percent predict today’s kids won’t live better lives than their parents. Additionally, 83 percent of voters indicated they’re either very or somewhat worried about the future of the nation, with 49 percent saying they’re “very worried.”
The results suggest that Americans don’t view the country’s current economic and political troubles as temporary, but instead see them continuing for many years.
The degree of pessimism, however, varies sharply by race and party affiliation, The Hill Poll found. Republicans, for instance, have less hope for the country’s future, with 90 percent saying the United States is declining and 66 percent predicting today’s kids will be worse off than their parents. By contrast, fewer than half of Democratic respondents indicated the country is in decline (47 percent) or fear for the next generation’s living standards (45 percent).
Oddly enough, African Americans — who were hammered much harder by the recession than whites — are more optimistic about the direction of the country, with 30 percent of black respondents saying the United States is deteriorating, versus 74 percent of whites.
In a similar vein, fewer than a third of black voters (31 percent) think today’s youths will suffer greater hardships than their parents, versus 60 percent for white respondents.
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Gender played a small role in dictating voters’ sense of the country’s health, according to the survey, with 70 percent of men and 68 percent of women saying the United States is moving downhill. Likewise, 58 percent of male voters and 56 percent of females said the next generation is in trouble.
The findings were based on a nationwide survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted last week by Pulse Opinion Research, an independent polling firm.
The fear of decline was also evident in another line of questioning, as 57 percent of voters indicated the United States is currently the most powerful nation on earth, but just 19 percent predicted that will be true 20 years from now.
The findings arrive as Washington policymakers continue to joust over the best way to boost the economy and create jobs in the face of high unemployment figures that show no signs of subsiding.
Republicans argue that the size of government — combined with enormous levels of federal spending — have contributed both to the recent recession and the slow pace in pulling out of it. They want to cut taxes, slash spending and scale back regulations they say are strangling private-sector job creators.
Democrats, on the other hand, see the government playing an active role in bolstering the economy. They’re pushing proposals designed to create jobs by increasing infrastructure spending, lending a lifeline to states and hiking taxes on corporations that outsource jobs.
The impasse reached a head last week, when Senate Republicans blocked legislation pushed by President Obama to provide states with $35 billion to help struggling states avoid laying off teachers, firefighters and other first responders. Earlier in the month, Senate Republicans had also killed Obama’s sweeping $447 billion jobs package — a vote that led Democrats to try a piecemeal approach.