NEW POLL: Middle Class More Anxious than Aspirational
16th Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll Shows Americans Walking
a Tightrope between Optimism and a "Fear of Falling Behind"
WASHINGTON, April 25, 2013
WASHINGTON, April 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- While the American middle class is
still optimistic about getting ahead, they have become increasingly fearful
that they may fall behind, according to poll results released today by The
Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL) and National Journal.
[Watch a live briefing on the latest Heartland Monitor Poll TODAY at 9am ET at
The 16th quarterly Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll focuses on
the American middle class and seeks to uncover important insights about how
this cornerstone economic group perceives the future. The poll asks Americans
to define what it means to be part of the middle class, based on income,
financial security, education and lifestyle. Unsurprisingly, many Americans
(46 percent) identify as middle class and almost all Americans (85 percent)
consider themselves a part of an expanded definition of being middle class
that includes upper middle class (12 percent), and lower middle class (26
The most recent Heartland Monitor Poll also identifies renewed concern about
the country's recovery and an increase in skepticism toward major political
and business institutions. Specifically, the mood of the country has worsened
with only 29 percent of respondents believing the U.S. is headed in the "right
direction," a considerable decline from a three-year high of 41 percent
recorded in November 2012. Democrats' optimism has decreased by 23 points to
54 percent in the most recent data, while just 32 percent of the middle class
feel the country is headed in the right direction.
"Over the last four years, Americans' views in this poll have been
consistently right about the economy.Today, they are sounding the alarm bell
that the economy is not on track for sustainable growth. More affordable
college education, job creation and stability are seen as key priorities,"
said Thomas J. Wilson, chairman, president and chief executive officer of
Allstate. "The blame is spread wide and far, from politicians to business
leaders. Americans are crying out for leaders to work together to create a
path to economic prosperity.We should listen and act now."
Heartland Monitor XVI reveals that public opinion is narrowly balanced between
hopes of economic improvement and fears about falling behind. Nearly
three-in-five middle class Americans (59 percent) say they are concerned about
falling out of their economic class. The attributes Americans have
historically seen as safeguards for middle class families such as educational
attainment and responsible financial planning are now considered by many to be
unrealistic or only attainable by the upper class. At the same time,
Americans remain optimistic about the potential to move up the economic ladder
at some point in the future; this is especially true among Millennials,
African Americans and Hispanics, whom view economic opportunity as being on
The new poll shows that there is now a sense that the term 'middle class' has
now been redefined to mean not falling behind, rather than upward mobility and
material possessions. Americans mostly blame decisions made by political
leaders and major business institutions over the past few decades for wages
falling behind living expenses. In fact, Americans believe the government and
private sector (local business excluded) are actually making the economic
situation worse for the middle class. The latest Heartland Monitor shows that
64 percent of Americans believe Congress has made things worse for the middle
class, while a mere 8 percent believe legislators are making things better.
It's not much better in the private sector, 55 percent of Americans think
major financial institutions are making things worse and 54 percent of
Americans believe CEOs of major U.S. corporations are hurting the economy as
Americans are clear with their prescriptions for policymakers with more than
half (55 percent) preferring lawmakers to take an approach that invests in
long-term job planning and growth in favor of initiatives that temporarily
alleviates day-to-day expenses (38 percent). Among a list of policy
preferences favored by Americans as a prescription for improving the middle
class, improving access to and lowering the cost of higher education ranked as
the most important (38 percent). Although most Americans still consider a
college education to be an important hallmark of middle-class status, many now
feel it is affordable only for the upper class (49 percent).
"Americans still believe they can reach for the stars—but are increasingly
concerned that they are standing on a trap door as they do," said Ronald
Brownstein, editorial director for National Journal. "The survey suggests
that after years of economic turmoil, most U.S. families now believe the most
valuable, and elusive, possession in American life is not any tangible
acquisition, like a house or a car, but rather economic security. Even while
capturing the durability of the belief that individuals can better their
circumstances, these results also pointedly remind us how much economic
anxiety and political alienation still shadows American life, even after the
darkest clouds of the Great Recession have lifted."
Key findings from the 16th Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll
1. Who is the middle class? A broad definition includes nearly everyone, and
a more narrowly defined grouping includes a diverse mix of incomes and
o46% of Americans truly considers themselves "middle class," placing
themselves on the middle rung of a five-tier economic class system which
includes upper class, upper middle, middle class, lower middle, and lower
o85% of American adults consider themselves as part of an expanded
definition of middle class. One in four (26%) identifies as lower middle
class, while 12% calls themselves upper middle class.
o12% of Americans consider themselves to be lower class, 2% identify as
oAmericans believe a typical middle-class family makes between $60k and
$65k per year – actual estimates indicate the median income for an average
family of four is $68,274.
2. The American middle class is anxious and in flux. While many dream of
upward mobility, most are concerned about falling out of their economic
o59% of Americans say they're concerned about falling out of their economic
class over the next few years
oMore than half (52%) of Americans say the biggest risk factor for falling
out of their economic status is losing a job or income source
o55% of middle-class Americans had parents who were not in the middle
class, and more than half (51%) have been outside the middle class in
their own lifetime. Overall, there's been a clear upward tack in economic
status. There are more Americans who have moved up into the middle class
from the previous generation or within their own lifetimes than slid down
o42% of middle-class parents with children under 18 years believe their
kids will be upper middle or upper class when they grow up.
3. Americans believe the key to staying in or moving into the middle class is
by attaining a higher level of education, but find it increasingly
o50% of all Americans and 51% of the middle class consider higher education
to be the most effective way to protect and earn middle-class standing.
oWhile many middle-class Americans face concerns about their ability to pay
for a college education for their children, it follows that Americans are
turning to elected officials for a solution to this widening gap in access
to higher education.
4. For many, being middle class now means financial security rather than
material items or financial growth, and it means keeping from falling behind
in an uncertain and challenging economy.
oA solid majority (54%) of Americans believes that being middle class today
means keeping up with expenses and holding a steady job while not falling
behind or taking on too much debt. Just 43% think that middle class means
having the opportunity for financial and professional growth, buying a
home, and saving and investing for the future.
oSeen as most "out of reach" for the middle class are paying for a child's
college education, retiring comfortably, and having enough money to
weather a health or income emergency. At least 40% of middle class
Americans believe these things are only realistic for the upper class.
oOne-quarter to one-third of middle class Americans believe that yearly
vacations, regular income increases, affording quality healthcare, and
having job security are only manageable for the upper class.
5. Americans want policymakers and businesses to focus on actions that
increase economic opportunities, create jobs, and make education attainable
and affordable. However, major institutions are seen as hurting, not helping,
the American middle class.
o55% of Americans prefer a governing approach that seeks to increase
economic growth, job creation, and opportunity over an approach that makes
daily expenses, health care, education, and retirement more affordable
oAmericans believe that the country's political leadership is making things
worse for the middle class.
o64% believe Congress is making things worse, and 8% think it's making
o45% believe President Obama is making things worse, and 36% believe
he is making things better.
o54% of Americans believe CEOs of major U.S. corporations are making things
o55% say major financial institutions are making things worse
6. After a momentary upswing in national optimism and goodwill, Americans have
renewed concerns about the economy and about the nation's political
oThe mood of the country has fallen to 29% "right direction," down from a
three-year high of 41% in our late-November survey.
oDemocrats' optimism has decreased by more than 20 points, from 77% in our
last poll to 54% in most recent data.
oAmong the middle class, just 32% think things are headed in the right
Notes to Editors
National Sample of 1,000 ADULTS AGE 18+
With a Breakout of 464 Self-Identified Middle Class
(Sample Margin of Error for 1,000 Respondents = ±3.1% in 95 out of 100 cases)
Conducted April 5-9, 2013 via Landline and Cell Phone
The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL) is the nation's largest publicly held
personal lines insurer known for its "You're In Good Hands With Allstate®"
slogan. Now celebrating its 80th anniversary as an insurer, Allstate is
reinventing protection and retirement to help nearly 16 million households
insure what they have today and better prepare for tomorrow. Consumers access
Allstate insurance products (auto, home, life and retirement) and services
through Allstate agencies, independent agencies, and Allstate exclusive
financial representatives in the U.S. and Canada, as well as via
www.allstate.com and 1-800 Allstate®. For an overview of the other
Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Polls, visit
About National Journal Group
National Journal is Washington's premier source for 360-degree insight on
politics and policy. With up-to-the-minute breaking news and analysis at
NationalJournal.com, the essential intelligence of National Journal Daily, the
knowledge and depth of National Journal magazine, and the comprehensive
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everything you need to know to stay ahead of the curve in Washington.
About FTI Consulting
FTI Consulting, Inc. is a global business advisory firm dedicated to helping
organizations protect and enhance enterprise value in an increasingly complex
legal, regulatory and economic environment. With more than 3,900 employees
located in 24 countries, FTI Consulting professionals work closely with
clients to anticipate, illuminate and overcome complex business challenges in
areas such as investigations, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory
issues, reputation management, strategic communications and restructuring. The
company generated $1.58 billion in revenues during fiscal year 2012. More
information can be found at www.fticonsulting.com.
SOURCE The Allstate Corporation
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