A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action

New Poll – 50 Years After LBJ’s War on Poverty

Findings from the Introduction and Summary

Here are the most important findings from the research – read the report for more details:
  • One-quarter to one-third of Americans—and even higher percentages of Millennials and people of color—continue to experience direct economic hardship…
  • A majority of Americans have a direct personal connection to poverty…
  • Americans vastly overestimate the annual income necessary to be officially considered poor…
  • Americans now believe that nearly 40 percent of their fellow citizens are living in poverty.
  • Americans strongly believe that poverty is primarily the result of a failed economy rather than the result of personal decisions and lack of effort…
  • Retrospective evaluations of the War on Poverty are mixed, but Americans across ideological and partisan lines believe the government has a responsibility to use its resources to fight poverty...
  • Despite mixed feelings about the original War on Poverty, there is strong support for a more realistic goal of reducing poverty by half over the next 10 years…
  • The public is clear about its priorities for reducing poverty: jobs, wages, and education…
  • Americans also express very strong support for a number of policies to help reduce poverty rates, particularly with jobs, wages, and education but also on more traditional safety net items…

Policymakers should feel confident that the American public will support efforts to expand economic opportunity, increase access to good jobs and wages, and maintain a robust social safety net.  Harsh negative attitudes about the poor that seemingly defined political discussions throughout the 1980s and 1990s have given way to public recognition that many Americans—poor and middle class alike—are facing many pressures trying to stay afloat and get ahead in the difficult economic environment.

Supporters of anti-poverty efforts should not be complacent in their efforts, however, and should recognize that although Americans back government action to reduce poverty, questions remain about the structure and scope of these efforts and how effective they have been over time.

 

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