HuffPollster: Middle Class Sees Opportunities Decline

Americans see less opportunity for the middle class, but remain divided on solutions. Worries about ISIS grow. And 2016 looks different for Hillary Clinton. This is HuffPollster for Friday, February 20, 2015.

A SHIFT ON INEQUALITY – CBS News: “[D]espite some positive economic assessments, 71 percent say that over the past ten years, life for the middle class has gotten worse – up from 59 percent in 2007. Among those who describe themselves as middle class, 21 percent say life for the middle class has improved, and 72 percent say it has gotten worse. There is cynicism as well. Just 36 percent now say that anyone has a fair chance to get ahead in today’s economy, down from 52 percent a year ago. Six in ten think only a few people at the top have a chance to get ahead, the highest in over four years.” [CBS]


Belief in opportunity erodes – Andrew Kohut: “There is every indication that the public not only sees the problem of inequality, but is finding it more difficult to get ahead. The number of Americans who believe there is plenty of opportunity to get ahead through hard work has declined by 16 percentage points since the turn of the century, according to Gallup….Indeed, the economic data show, it’s no longer just a growing gap between rich and the poor, but also one in which the middle class is being outpaced by the wealthy..” [Pew]


So do Americans support ‘Obama’s middle class populism?’ – More Kohut: “Americans tend to agree that inequality is a problem, but are divided over what to do about it. This is because partisanship drives opinions about approaches. Democrats support a great deal of government action against both poverty and broader inequality. However, Republicans make a distinction between the two problems…[P]ublic receptivity to solutions will not be a simple matter. Proposed policy changes will be judged not only on their likely effectiveness, but on fairness and in their keeping with American values. And those values are, at times, contradictory.”

ISIS WORRIES GROW – CBS News: “As President Obama seeks new congressional authorization for using military force against ISIS, Americans’ views on how things are going for the U.S. in its conflict with the militant group are negative and getting worse. Sixty-seven percent of Americans think things are going at least somewhat badly for the U.S. in its fight against ISIS – up ten percentage points from last October – including 33 percent who describe the situation as very bad…There is public consensus for passing the military authorization bill President Obama has requested from Congress…More significantly, support for the use of U.S. ground troops has also risen. For the first time, a majority of Americans (57 percent) favor the U.S. sending ground troops into Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS. In October, Americans were divided, and in September these numbers were reversed.” [CBS]

HILLARY CLINTON IN 2016: ‘THIS TIME IS DIFFERENT’ – Nate Cohn: “Whenever I mention that Hillary Clinton is an overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination — and would be even if Senator Elizabeth Warren ran — the conversation usually comes back to 2008. ‘She was supposed to be inevitable last time,’ the refrain goes, ‘and she lost.’ I get it. I remember that Mrs. Clinton was ‘inevitable,’ and I see why today’s discussions of Mrs. Clinton’s strength sound familiar. But there is no equivalence between Mrs. Clinton’s strength then and now. She was never inevitable eight years ago. If a candidate has ever been inevitable — for the nomination — it is Mrs. Clinton today….No candidate, excluding incumbent presidents, has ever fared so well in the early primary polls as Mrs. Clinton. She holds about 60 percent of the vote of Democratic voters, a tally dwarfing the 40 percent she held this time in the last election cycle.” [NYT]


AMERICANS MORE POSITIVE ABOUT CUBA – Art Swift: “As President Barack Obama and his administration work to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and loosen travel restrictions between the two countries for the first time in 53 years, Americans now view Cuba more favorably than they have in nearly 20 years. Forty-six percent say they have a favorable opinion of Cuba, up eight percentage points from last year, and a far cry from the 10% favorability rating in 1996. The percentage of Americans viewing Cuba favorably has been mostly in the 20% to 30% range since 1996. This survey is the first time Gallup has asked Americans for their opinion of Cuba since Obama announced in December that he is working to re-establish diplomatic ties with the communist country.” [Gallup]


FERGUSON: RACIAL AND PARTISAN DIVISION PERSISTS – HuffPollster: “[Forty-five] percent of Americans say the events [in Ferguson] did major damage to race relations in the country…Black Americans’ trust in the criminal justice system, low to begin with, seems to have dropped even further since November. Only 6 percent of black Americans now say they believe the system treats people of different races equally, down from 22 percent in the earlier poll. But just as in November, Americans as a whole are almost evenly divided on whether racial bias affects the police and criminal justice systems. Forty-one percent say most city police officers treat blacks and whites fairly, while 38 percent say they don’t. Similarly, 41 percent say the criminal justice system treats people of different races equally, while 42 percent say it does not…Democrats are considerably more likely than Republicans to perceive racial discrimination and police brutality.” [HuffPost]

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FRIDAY’S ‘OUTLIERS’ – Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-Most Americans favor a higher minimum wage. [AP, topline]

-CNN finds Obama’s approval rating at 47 percent. [CNN]

-Americans are split on whether defense spending should be higher or lower. [Gallup]

-Bloomberg’s Consumer Comfort Index finds the lowest level of economic pessimism in four years. [Langer Research]

-Young Americans are divided on the death penalty. [YouGov]

-Amy Walter notes that Democratic primary voters are more united than Republicans on domestic and social issues. [Cook Political]

-In California’s presidential primary, Clinton leads big among Democrats, Walker and Bush begin with the edge among Republicans. [Field]

-Clinton leads Warren 46 to 35 percent among strong California liberals. [@williamjordann]

-Kyle Kondik says it’s increasingly unlikely that Democrats could lose Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat. [Sabato]

-Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are evenly matched in a South Carolina primary poll.

-What do Americans think of net neutrality? Most don’t know what it is.

-Bostonians support an Olympic bid, but want a referendum on the issue. [WBUR]

-John Sides interviews two political scientists who study conspiracy theories. [WashPost]

-An interactive U.S. county map illustrates the rise in racial diversity. [Brookings]

-Communication and reading outrank math and science asthe top skills Americans say kids need to succeed. [Pew]