Executive Summary


1. Americans’ Definition of Poverty

  • Many Americans report having a direct, personal experience with poverty.
  • Americans define poverty in terms of economic security and basic needs.
  • More Americans are self-identifying as working class and lower class.

2. Perceptions About Poverty & Homelessness

  • The vast majority of Americans believe poverty is a serious issue, and there is growing public concern about homelessness.
  • Many Americans embrace a structural explanation for poverty.
  • Perceptions about the causes of poverty differ among low- income women.

3. Perceptions About Income Inequality & Equal Opportunity

  • The majority of Americans are concerned about income and wealth inequality and support some form of government intervention.
  • Americans’ faith in the viability of the American Dream is at a five-year low.
  • Many Americans are skeptical about trickle-down economics and a growing percentage of Americans believe the economic system unfairly favors the wealthy.
  • Americans’ faith in the importance of hard work in getting ahead has increased slightly.
  • Many Americans believe that people tend to be wealthy or poor because of the availability of opportunities.
  • Americans are increasingly concerned about equal opportunity.

4.Perceptions of People Living In Poverty and Racial Attitudes

  • Perceptions of how difficult it is to live in poverty remain divided.
  • Americans are dissatisfied with the state of race relations but more open to structural barriers presented by racial discrimination.

5.Views About the Role of Government, Free Market Economy, and Attitudes Toward Public
Spending and Taxation

  • The majority of Americans believe the government should play a major role in tackling poverty.
  • There is growing dissatisfaction with government efforts to reduce poverty.
  • Americans are conflicted about the role government should play in reducing income and wealth inequality.

6. Americans’ Policy Preferences

  • Public support for an increase in the national minimum wage has increased significantly in recent years.
  • Support for Social Security remains high.
  • The majority of Americans view foreign trade as an opportunity for the economy but are more divided on the benefits of free trade agreements.
  • Americans’ attitudes about taxation are divided but the majority of Americans now support a more even distribution of money and wealth among people and higher taxation of the highest earners.
  • Americans are more open to living in racially diverse communities. Americans are largely supportive of subsidized housing.
  • While opinion is divided across party lines, many Americans are satisfied and supportive of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Affirmative action remains a somewhat contentious issue.
  • The majority of Americans support continuation of programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid, but there is stigma attached to the term “welfare”.