WASHINGTON (February 2, 2007) – Most Americans – 62 percent – think an increase in poverty in the United States would threaten national security, according to the latest Poverty Pulse survey by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).
The survey also found that 91 percent of the public is concerned about health care, that 62 percent think there are more people "living in poverty today than there were a year ago" while 60 percent think the ranks of poverty will grow further by next year; and that many believe federal support for health and education should take priority over spending on national defense, fighting terrorism, and war, combined.
When asked whether "an increase in poverty will hurt our national security," 24 percent said they "strongly agree" that it will, while 38 percent said they "agree," for a total of 62 percent. Another 24 percent were neutral, neither agreeing nor disagreeing; 12 percent said they disagree with the statement and 2 percent said they strongly disagree.
When questioned about their choice for "the federal government's highest priority in terms of spending," 22 percent of respondents said "education," the top answer, and 21 percent replied "healthcare." But "health insurance" and "affordable healthcare" and other health-related comments accounted for an additional 5 percent, bringing the total choosing health and medical spending to 26 percent, outpolling even education. Fifteen percent of respondents cited "national defense," while "fighting terrorism," "war," and "other security-defense" options were each mentioned by 1 percent. The fourth-highest response, spending money "on the nation, not on foreign countries," was favored by 5 percent while 4 percent chose "helping the needy-poor people," which was the fifth-highest response. Various comments on social concerns (including Social Security, social programs, welfare, seniors/elders and fighting drugs and alcohol abuse -- in addition to helping the needy/poor people) when combined represented the views of 8 percent of respondents.
With the Democrats taking control of Congress, 53 percent of respondents predicted that poverty in America will stay about the same; 27 percent believe it will decrease, and 20 percent think it will grow.
In other findings:
Gauging "the single most significant cause of poverty," 17 percent cited "lack of work that pays a living wage"; 15 percent said "lack of education," and 12 percent replied "lack of initiative-laziness."
In assigning the "greatest responsibility" for responding to poverty, 32 percent zeroed in on "everyone-general public," an increase of 3 percentage points from the January 2006 Poverty Pulse; 41 percent looked to the government (28 percent federal; 13 percent local and state); 18 percent chose "the poor themselves," and 3 percent picked "churches."
Fifty-eight percent expressed concern that they "might be poor at some point" in their lives – down 5 percentage points from last year, although most of this drop came among people with low incomes. Those in the low-income category, who fear being poor at some point in their lives, dropped from 88 percent in 2005 to 75 percent in 2006.
Asked to suggest the "single best way to permanently break the cycle of poverty in the United States," 25 percent said, "better education for children," 24 percent said "pay living wages to low-income workers," 11 percent said "a better economy," and 10 percent said "development of leadership skills among low-income people."
"As I reflect on the public response to this survey, I believe that people see societal problems as interrelated, not isolated", said Bishop Howard Hubbard, Chairman of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the national anti-poverty program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. "We inherently strive as a society to achieve a healthy condition for all. Of course, within CCHD and the Catholic Church, there is always a focus on achieving the common good for the full community. In this context, I also see that respondents are stressing that if all of society is not healthy and vibrant, but lives in a depressed state of poverty, it follows that unhealthy social conditions will increase and multiply. I believe the time has come for all who are not poor to recognize the needs of our nation's poor and support efforts to permanently break the cycle of poverty and build strong and healthy communities that repel crime, terrorism and social injustice," he added.
The 2007 Poverty Pulse, conducted Dec. 7-11, 2006, with 1,027 total respondents, is the 7th consecutive "wave" or survey undertaken by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the domestic anti-poverty program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Poverty Pulse involved a random sample of respondents surveyed through Harris Interactive Service Bureau (HISB), a separate operating unit of Harris Interactive. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3 percentage points. Market Research Bureau LLC, which designed the survey questionnaire in conjunction with CCHD, analyzed the findings and prepared a comprehensive report on the data. Like the Wave VI survey (released in January 2006), the latest Poverty Pulse used an online methodology for data collection. Prior to 2005, the Poverty Pulse relied on a telephone methodology.
Founded in 1970, 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. The funds CCHD distributes come from individual Catholics who contribute to an annual, nationwide church collection, usually in the fall. Over the years, CCHD has provided $280 million in grants to more than 7,000 projects.
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