Who is most optimistic about the future?

Published 11:05 am Thursday, September 29, 2016

How optimistic  are you about the future  of our nation? The results of a new poll may surprise you.

In a June AP-NORC poll, 62 percent of black people said they thought America’s best days were ahead. Only 40 percent of white people thought so. Fifty-three percent of black people and 48 percent of Hispanics called the economy “good.” Just 37 percent of white people did.

The optimism among minorities might seem to defy economic realities. Whites have a median household income of $71,300 compared with blacks’ median of $43,300. A report from the Institute for Policy Studies has calculated that at their current rate, it would take black Americans 228 years to catch up with the wealth of white Americans.

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One factor in the gap between black optimism and white pessimism is simply partisan politics: A large percentage of the black and Hispanic voting population are Democrats and more likely to feel positive about the future when one of their own is in the White House.

Still, there’s evidence that the divide goes beyond party and Obama’s presidency. Since 2002 — well before Obama’s 2008 election — surveys by the NORC at the University of Chicago found that whites across all parties and income levels have been less likely to think their standard of living would improve. Blacks and Hispanics, meanwhile, have increasingly believed their living standards would rise.

Today’s political climate lends itself to widespread cynicism about the nation’s problems and whether they will be mended. But there’s a comfort in knowing many Americans are not without hope for a better tomorrow.