WASHINGTON (January 19, 2006)– Nearly two-thirds of Americans – 65 percent – fear that poverty will increase in the United States in 2006 while seven in 10 (71 percent) believe there are more poor people today than a year ago and 63 percent worry that they could themselves become poor, according to the latest Poverty Pulse survey by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
The poll, whose results were presented Jan. 19 at a news conference in New Orleans, also found that nearly all Americans, 97 percent, think that it is important to decrease or eliminate poverty in the United States and that more than half – 56 percent – had donated money to organizations that assist the poor. Nearly half – 46 percent reported giving money for disaster relief, 42 percent reported praying, and about a quarter – 26 percent – said they themselves had volunteered. (More than one reply was possible per respondent.)
But the Poverty Pulse found Americans divided on assigning "the greatest responsibility" for responding to the needs of poor people and addressing poverty overall: 31 percent said the responsibility lies with the federal government, while 29 percent said it is the task of "everyone-the general public." Another 17 percent assigned the task to the poor themselves and 2 percent held churches responsible.
However, 90 percent of the public said that it is important for the federal government to ensure that all poor people have health coverage. And 91 percent believe that health care should be guaranteed to all children.
Conducted among 1,131 members of the general adult population in December 2005, the poll is the sixth "wave" or yearly Poverty Pulse survey since 2000. Unlike the previous years, however, the December 2005 poll involved online questioning rather than telephone calls to gauge public opinion. CCHD, the domestic anti-poverty program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, uses the Poverty Pulses to assess understanding of poverty in America.
The Poverty Pulse also revealed that 75 percent of Americans think that the Hurricane Katrina disaster should be a tool for further educating the public about poverty in the United States; slightly less than a quarter – 23 percent – felt that too much attention had already been focused on the situation. The poll likewise found that more than half of the public – 52 percent – disagreed with the statement that "racism played a role in the slow response to victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans" while 27 percent did attribute such a role to racism. (Perceptions differed among whites and African Americans. Although only 23 percent of whites said that "racism played a role," 65 percent of blacks believed it did.) Two-thirds – 66 percent – of respondents said they do not believe their own area has as much poverty as New Orleans, while 26 percent said the levels are about the same and 4 percent said their area has more poverty than New Orleans; 3 percent reported that "poverty is not a problem in my area" at all.
In other findings, the Poverty Pulse learned that:
- Women are more concerned about poverty, access to education and affordable housing than men, but no difference exists between men and women in regard to health care.
- 18 percent of Americans think that "lack of work that pays a living wage" is "the single most significant cause of poverty," while 11 percent cite "lack of
education," 12 percent attribute poverty to "lack of initiative/laziness," 9 percent
say it comes from "outsourcing of jobs to other countries" and 2 percent blame "unjust laws or social policies."
- When asked to name "the single best way to permanently break the cycle of poverty in the United States," 28 percent said "pay living wages to low-income workers," 20 percent responded "better education for children," and 14 percent said "a better economy."
- Most people think that an increase in poverty will detrimentally affect everyone, with 35 percent predicting it would reduce the quality of life for all Americans, 28 percent saying it would increase crime, and 20 percent anticipating more homelessness as a result.
- When respondents were asked off the top of their heads ("top of mind," or without suggested answers) to name "the single biggest social problem facing the U.S.," poverty ranked third on the list (chosen by 7 percent), just below health care and racism (each at 8 percent) which both ranked first, and above war-U.S. involvement in war, named by 4 percent.
The survey was designed in conjunction with CCHD by Market Research Bureau LLC, which also conducted the analysis and prepared a 22-page written report of its findings. The actual polling was carried out by Harris Interactive Service Bureau (HISB). The possible margin of error is plus (+) or minus (-) 3 percentage points and the survey can be considered reasonably representative of all adults in the United States.
Because of the difference in methodology for the December 2005 survey, online versus telephone polling, the report advises that any comparisons with the prior Poverty Pulses should be made with caution.
Nonetheless, the survey found that concern about poverty in America continues to be high. Whereas 88 percent of respondents reported being concerned in 2005, the figures for 2004 and 2003 were 90 and 89 percent, respectively, and that for the first survey, in 2000, was 87 percent. At the same time, individuals' fears that they themselves could become poor some day have grown: In 2000, 49 percent of Americans reported harboring that fear, but the level of concern has increased every year, to reach 56 percent in both 2003 and 2004 and climb further to 63 percent in the latest Poverty Pulse.
The 35-year-old Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is one of the nation's largest private funders of self-help programs initiated and led by poor people. Committed to the permanent elimination of poverty and injustice in the United States, CCHD supports projects nationwide that know no racial or religious boundaries – projects that help create jobs, improve neighborhoods and allow people to find a way out of poverty. Among its many other activities, it sponsors Poverty Awareness Month each January, with the related Poverty Pulse. The funds CCHD distributes come from individual Catholics who donate to a nationwide church collection each year, usually in the fall. Over the years, CCHD has provided more than $280 million in grants.
According to national statistics, poverty now affects some 37 million people, including 13 million children, or 12.7 percent of the U.S. population – one of every eight individuals.
For more information contact:
CCHD Director of Communications