Well-Being Longevity

Optimism about next generation’s ability to have a better life than parents drops: Gallup

Sharp declines in optimism for future generations are driven by Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, data show.
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Story at a glance

  • A new poll from Gallup shows less Americans are optimistic about youths’ future than in 2019. 

  • However, levels of optimism varied depending on political affiliation and household income.

  • Trends also tend to follow dips in the economy, as Americans become less optimistic during recessions. 

Just 42 percent of U.S. adults think today’s youth will have a better life than their parents, down from 60 percent last measured in June of 2019. The findings are reflected in a new Gallup poll conducted among 812 adults in September 2022. 

The declines are mainly driven by a lack of optimism among Republicans and independents who say they lean Republican, according to authors, as optimism fell 33 points since 2019 in these groups. Democrats’ optimism largely remained the same. 

Only 13 percent of adults reported it is “very” likely that youth in 2022 will have a better living standard, better homes, a better education and so on in the future. Twenty-nine percent of respondents said this possibility is “somewhat” likely. 

The total is also statistically equal to the lowest reported level of optimism, measured in 2011. Gallup has been assessing Americans’ optimism about future living standards since 2008, but before that, other organizations including The New York Times and CBS News posed the question to the public. 

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In 1999 and 2001, 71 percent of adults expected life to be better for the next generation, marking all-time highs.

“The general pattern throughout the trend has been that in periods of economic challenges, such as elevated unemployment, recession or high inflation, optimism is comparatively low,” authors wrote. 

Many economists foresee a bleak economic outlook for America, and the majority say the country is already in or near a recession. 

Similar trends were reported during the 2008 Great Recession, while current lows could also reflect high U.S. inflation rates.

Broken down along party lines, 53 percent of Democrats feel it’s likely the lives of today’s youth will be superior to their parents’ compared with 33 percent of Republicans. 

“Longer term, Republicans’ partisanship appears to be an even more significant driver of optimism about the next generation than economic factors are — Republicans’ swings in optimism are greater than Democrats’ when the sitting president’s party changes,” researchers added. 

After Donald Trump was elected in 2016, Republicans’ optimism rose by 29 points, but fell 33 points after the election of Joe Biden. When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, this group’s optimism also fell by 17 points.

Meanwhile, Democrats have reported largely consistent levels of optimism about the future since 2008. 

Levels of optimism also vary by income level, as data show households with lower incomes are significantly more likely than higher income ones to expect the next generation to do better.

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