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The Optimism Gap (Why are blacks more upbeat than whites about the U.S. economy?)
National Review ^ | 09/01/2010 | Duncan Currie

Posted on 09/01/2010 8:01:51 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

Discussions of race in modern America often focus on gaps between blacks and whites — the income gap, the education gap, the marriage gap, the incarceration gap. Recent polling suggests the emergence of a new gap: an optimism gap. One group is decidedly more upbeat about both the current state of the U.S. economy and the likelihood of future prosperity. But it’s not the group you might expect.

In May, the Pew Research Center conducted an exhaustive survey to gauge the impact of the Great Recession. That same month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate among blacks stood at 15.5 percent — 17.1 percent among black men aged 20 and over — while the rate among whites was 8.8 percent. Not surprisingly, a much larger proportion of blacks than whites told Pew that the economic slump had forced them to accept reduced work hours, to take unpaid leave, or to switch from full-time to part-time employment. (A technical note: All of the Pew data in this article refer to non-Hispanic blacks and whites; the BLS figures, by contrast, include blacks and whites of Hispanic ancestry.)

Blacks were also “more likely than whites to have had trouble getting or paying for medical care, borrowed money from a family member or friend, or had problems paying their rent or mortgage.” Thirty-five percent of black homeowners reported having an “underwater” mortgage (i.e., a mortgage whose outstanding debt is worth more than the present value of the house), compared with only 18 percent of white homeowners.

Given those disparities, one might reasonably have predicted that blacks would be more pessimistic than whites about America’s economic prospects. In fact, the opposite was true. Despite the yawning racial employment gap, blacks were nearly twice as likely as whites to call U.S. economic conditions “excellent” or “good” (25 percent to 13 percent). They were also significantly less likely than whites to say that the American economy was still in recession (45 percent to 57 percent), and significantly more likely than whites to say that their personal financial situation would improve over the coming year (81 percent to 57 percent).

Even though the seasonally adjusted black unemployment rate climbed from 9 percent in December 2007, when the Great Recession began, to 15.5 percent in May 2010, roughly a third (32 percent) of blacks told Pew that their household finances were in better shape than they had been prior to the recession. Only 18 percent of whites gave that response. Between early 2008 and May 2010, the proportion of blacks identifying as members of the upper class increased from 15 percent to 20 percent. Meanwhile, the overall share of Americans in that category declined slightly, from 21 percent to 20 percent, and the segment identifying as members of the lower class swelled from 25 percent to 29 percent. “There are now no significant gaps between black and white Americans in terms of how they identify their social class,” Pew noted. Looking ahead, blacks were far more likely than whites (81 percent to 59 percent) to agree with the statement that “although there may be bad times every now and then, America will always continue to be prosperous and make economic progress.”

To a certain extent, the black-white optimism gap reflected a partisan divide, and vice versa, since blacks are overwhelmingly Democratic voters. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to characterize U.S. economic conditions as “excellent” or “good” (17 percent to 11 percent), to say their financial situation would improve over the next year (70 percent to 55 percent), or to agree that America would always remain prosperous (75 percent to 57 percent). They were less likely than Republicans to describe the state of the economy as “poor” (30 percent to 48 percent), to say that the recession was ongoing (43 percent to 63 percent), or to say that it had caused “major” and “permanent” changes in the U.S. economy (12 percent to 22 percent).

The partisan gap was reinforced by Hispanics, who voiced greater economic optimism than whites, and also by younger adults, who were generally more positive than older adults. Both of these groups (Hispanics and younger adults) have experienced a particularly steep jump in unemployment since late 2007, but both are also Democratic-leaning constituencies. Indeed, while Republicans were more likely than Democrats to report losing value on their house, Democrats “have lower incomes and less wealth and have suffered more job losses during the recession.” Yet Democrats were more confident than Republicans about the recovery, and about the future of American affluence, “regardless of their income, education, [or] gender,” or other factors, such as ability to make mortgage, rent, or health-care payments.

How do we account for this?

“One likely explanation,” Pew suggested, “is that in an age of highly polarized politics, Democrats and Republicans differ not only in their values, attitudes, and policy positions, but, increasingly, in their basic perceptions of reality.”

This phenomenon was apparent during the Bush years, when it was Republicans who were more bullish on the economy. In a 2004 Pew poll, only 12 percent of liberal Democrats characterized economic conditions as “excellent” or “good,” compared with 62 percent of conservative Republicans. In a 2006 poll, Republicans with household incomes below $50,000 were nearly three times as likely as Democrats in the same income group to say that economic conditions were “excellent” or “good” (48 percent to 17 percent). Similarly, 65 percent of Republicans with household incomes of $75,000 and above gave the economy an “excellent” or “good” rating, compared with only 31 percent of Democrats in that income group.

There’s no question that political affiliation now exerts a strong influence on how many Americans view the national economy. But partisanship alone cannot fully explain the current optimism of blacks. We must also consider the Obama Effect.

In a survey conducted last fall, Pew found that “blacks’ assessments about the state of black progress in America have improved more dramatically during the past two years than at any time in the past quarter century.” Between 2007 and 2009, the share of blacks saying that “the situation of black people in this country” had gotten better over the previous five years rose from 20 percent to 39 percent, and the proportion saying that life would be even better for blacks in the future increased from 44 percent to 53 percent. In addition, 56 percent of blacks said that the gap between black and white living standards had narrowed over the last decade, compared with 41 percent who said so in 2007. (This was especially striking because, according to a Pew analysis, the black-white median-household-income gap actually expanded by three percentage points between 2000 and 2008.)

“Barack Obama’s election as the nation’s first black president appears to be the spur for this sharp rise in optimism among African Americans,” Pew concluded. The Obama Effect is also visible in Gallup’s Standard of Living Index, which measures (1) how Americans rate their standard of living and (2) whether they believe it is getting better or worse. Black scores in the index “continue to exceed those for whites,” Gallup reported in July, “a pattern that has persisted since early 2009.” Indeed, “blacks began to be more optimistic around the same time that Barack Obama was inaugurated as president.”

As November 2008 recedes further into history, and as Obama’s political troubles metastasize, it is easy to forget or underestimate the psychological impact that his election had on black Americans. The Obama Effect has helped fuel a remarkable spike in black confidence at a time of severe economic adversity. The official black-white unemployment gap is staggering — it was 7 percentage points (15.6 percent to 8.6 percent), in seasonally adjusted terms, as of July — but so is the black-white optimism gap. Whether (or how long) the latter gap will persist remains to be seen.

— Duncan Currie is deputy managing editor of National Review Online.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: blacks; economy; optimismgap; whites

1 posted on 09/01/2010 8:01:58 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

I think the answer is obvious.

Who’s going to pay, and who’s going to get paid?


2 posted on 09/01/2010 8:02:54 AM PDT by Pessimist
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To: SeekAndFind

Which blacks?

Thomas Sowell says he is worried, and trying to fend off despair.


3 posted on 09/01/2010 8:04:14 AM PDT by Psalm 144 (3 great American Thomases: Jefferson, Paine and Sowell.)
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To: Pessimist

-Thank You-


4 posted on 09/01/2010 8:04:17 AM PDT by TexasCajun
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To: SeekAndFind

Don’t have to read it to know why - because blacks are blindly supporting Obastard and are so invested with him being “successful” that they ignore the evidence in front of them.


5 posted on 09/01/2010 8:04:23 AM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (Islam is the religion of Satan and Mohammed was his minion.)
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To: SeekAndFind

The Optimism Gap (Why are blacks more upbeat than whites about the U.S. economy?

Is this a rhetorical question?


6 posted on 09/01/2010 8:06:11 AM PDT by SMARTY ("What luck for rulers that men do not think." Adolph Hitler)
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To: SeekAndFind

I’m a Republican, I work so you don’t have to.


7 posted on 09/01/2010 8:06:11 AM PDT by sniper63 (I am the leader of the TEA Party, I, myself am the leader of me, myself for I am the TEA Party!)
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To: SeekAndFind
Maybe the 90% of the black population who voted for Obama see the question as a ploy to get them to admit they made a mistake & don't want to give the questioner and his audience the satisfaction of admitting they were wrong?

Or maybe they still believe their candidate will 'deliver the goods' for them?

8 posted on 09/01/2010 8:06:15 AM PDT by skeeter
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To: SeekAndFind

Because of their conditioned-response, knee-jerk support of Demonrats, and especially their race-based support of 0bummer.Also, their hope of continued government (read taxpayer) largess.


9 posted on 09/01/2010 8:06:50 AM PDT by luvbach1 (Stop Barry now. He can't help himself.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Because all those jobs with the government will not be going to the crackers ...


10 posted on 09/01/2010 8:07:58 AM PDT by spodefly (This is my tag line. There are many like it, but this one is mine.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Of course one can generalize, especially when upward of 95% of blacks support the Demonrats and 0bummer.


11 posted on 09/01/2010 8:08:19 AM PDT by luvbach1 (Stop Barry now. He can't help himself.)
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To: SeekAndFind

They’ve got to be kidding!
The unemployment rate for A-As is 20+% - worse yet for A-A yoots.
This half-black in the white house is maintaining the plantation for these A-As and they are willing fools...
a real shame...


12 posted on 09/01/2010 8:10:13 AM PDT by matginzac
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To: SeekAndFind

It’s all going to program, isn’t it? Upbeat blacks. Beatup whites.


13 posted on 09/01/2010 8:10:23 AM PDT by Hardraade (I want gigaton warheads now!!)
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To: matginzac

We’re two generations into the “Great Society” now.
They’ve been conditioned by government schools for quite a while.


14 posted on 09/01/2010 8:12:46 AM PDT by nascarnation
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To: SeekAndFind
For blacks it is ALL about SKIN COLOR! This is the driving force that keeps them loyal to Obama. To make matters worse, they do the worst educationally, they do the worst financially and they are not as business savvy as other racial groups. In other words, they are ignorant and easily lead by a black person. I'm sorry but that is the only explanation that makes sense based on other surveys. Another factor is that they have been conditioned to believe government knows best and will take care of them.

If you ask a normal black person who has had success, educated and broke free of enslavement to government and they will be pessimistic. I also believe they are happy to see others suffering financially or racially because they have been conditioned to believe their future is bleak and they've been suppressed. Sure YEARS and YEARS ago, they were suppressed but not it is discrimination against not being black.

15 posted on 09/01/2010 8:12:48 AM PDT by nmh (Intelligent people recognize Intelligent Design (God).)
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To: skeeter

“We getting Obama money! Out of his stash!”


16 posted on 09/01/2010 8:13:07 AM PDT by Howie66 (I can see November from my house.)
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To: SeekAndFind

It is not just blacks, it is the entire welfare class. They need to stop injecting race into an issue that isn’t inherently racial. Scavengers thrive in hard times. When the Gazelles are starving, the vultures eat well. Obama’s ACORN crew are just waiting to feast on the carcass of America when their failed economic policies finally bring the nation to its knees.


17 posted on 09/01/2010 8:13:24 AM PDT by GonzoGOP (There are millions of paranoid people in the world and they are all out to get me.)
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To: SeekAndFind

The writer sure didn’t need all those words to explain it.


18 posted on 09/01/2010 8:13:24 AM PDT by luvbach1 (Stop Barry now. He can't help himself.)
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To: Psalm 144
Thomas Sowell is an educated black that has been successful. He KNOWS better. Skin color doesn't matter to him.
19 posted on 09/01/2010 8:14:41 AM PDT by nmh (Intelligent people recognize Intelligent Design (God).)
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To: SeekAndFind

cognitive dissonance .....


20 posted on 09/01/2010 8:15:34 AM PDT by RedWhiteBlue
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To: nascarnation

But in reality, it just hasn’t/isn’t working for them, is it?
You’d think by watching Oprah 24/7 they’d have figured it out by now...


21 posted on 09/01/2010 8:17:07 AM PDT by matginzac
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To: nmh
Thomas Sowell...KNOWS better.

Yes, 5% of blacks do know better. OK, maybe 7%.

22 posted on 09/01/2010 8:17:46 AM PDT by luvbach1 (Stop Barry now. He can't help himself.)
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To: Psalm 144

That’s what I was about to post. WHAT Blacks? From where? The MSM perception of Black is you have to be living in the ghetto. If you are middle-class living in a suburb with your other engineer/marketing friends who just happen to be mostly white, then they would say you’re not really black or not black enough.


23 posted on 09/01/2010 8:22:39 AM PDT by Clock King (Ellisworth Toohey was right: My head's gonna explode.)
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To: SeekAndFind

They are still sure Obama is going to pay off their house and car!!!


24 posted on 09/01/2010 8:23:27 AM PDT by ontap
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To: SeekAndFind
Optimism?...optimism? why sure..here's some quote from true believers:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P36x8rTb3jI

OBAMA'S GONNA PAY FOR MY GAS...
Millions like her voted... SCRIPT: "It was the most memorable time of my life. It was a touching moment because I never thought this day would ever happen. I won't have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won't have to worry about paying my mortgage. You know, if I help him, he's gonna help me." - Peggy Joseph 10/30/2008


Obama’s Stash (Oct 8, 2009)
new audio today from Ken Rogulski of WJR. Detroit Free Press: "'Cobo a Scene of Desperation' --

"Some were treated by emergency medical workers on site," as they showed up to pick up Obama money. "It was one of the most dramatic signs to date of how deeply joblessness and the home foreclosure crisis have pushed people from the lower and middle ends of the economic scale to seek help wherever they can.

ROGULSKI: Why are you here?
WOMAN #1: To get some money.
ROGULSKI: What kind of money?
WOMAN #1: Obama money.
ROGULSKI: Where's it coming from?
WOMAN #1: Obama.
ROGULSKI: And where did Obama get it?
WOMAN #1: I don't know, his stash. I don't know. (laughter) I don't know where he got it from, but he givin' it to us, to help us.
WOMAN #2: And we love him.
WOMAN #1: We love him. That's why we voted for him!
WOMEN: (chanting) Obama! Obama! Obama! (laughing)
ROGULSKI: Did you get an application to fill out yet?
WOMAN: I sure did. And I filled it out, and I am waiting to see what the results are going to be.
ROGULSKI: Will you know today how much money you're getting?
WOMAN: No, I won't, but I'm waiting for a phone call. BR> ROGULSKI: Where's the money coming from? BR> WOMAN: I believe it's coming from the City of Detroit or the state.
ROGULSKI: Where did they get it from?
WOMAN: Some funds that was forgiven (sic) by Obama.
ROGULSKI: And where did Obama get the funds? BR> WOMAN: Obama getting the funds from... Ummm, I have no idea, to tell you the truth. He's the president.
ROGULSKI: In downtown Detroit, Ken Rogulski, WJR News.


25 posted on 09/01/2010 8:37:36 AM PDT by Stand Watch Listen (It's the 'Land of Opportunity'... NOT... the 'Land of Entitlements'!!!)
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To: SeekAndFind

Because of lot of them think Barack Hussein Obama is going to take care of them. Eventually even they will wake up.


26 posted on 09/01/2010 8:37:45 AM PDT by ilovesarah2012 (Proud Infidel)
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To: ontap
Peggy The Moocher: Why Blacks Believe In Obama

"Because I never thought this day would ever happen.
I won't have to worry about putting gas in my car.
I won't have to worry about paying my mortgage.
You know - If I help [Obama], he's gonna help me."


27 posted on 09/01/2010 8:43:29 AM PDT by Iron Munro (I carry a gun because I'm too young to die and too old to take any more beatings.)
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To: Howie66
Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ...

28 posted on 09/01/2010 8:44:58 AM PDT by oh8eleven (RVN '67-'68)
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To: SeekAndFind

Outcome Based Education


29 posted on 09/01/2010 8:47:15 AM PDT by GunningForTheBuddha ("There is an 'I' in Marxist")
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To: SeekAndFind

just a hunch but a higher proportion work for the government where pay continues to go up


30 posted on 09/01/2010 8:49:01 AM PDT by wardaddy (effed up times..)
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To: Blood of Tyrants

They will keep getting paid because their boss prints money and steals other money.


31 posted on 09/01/2010 9:06:00 AM PDT by arthurus (Read Hazlitt's "Economics In One Lesson.")
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To: SeekAndFind

Why are black more upbeat: “Obama Stash!”


32 posted on 09/01/2010 9:19:06 AM PDT by CodeToad (Islam needs to be banned in the US and treated as a criminal enterprise.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Real simple: If you’re black, you’ll get money, mainly provided by hard-working white people. If the white people revolt and stop paying, you’ll win anyway because you’ll riot and take stuff by force, then destroy what’s left.

What’s not to be optimistic about?


33 posted on 09/01/2010 9:32:11 AM PDT by hoagy62 (.)
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To: SeekAndFind
“One likely explanation,” Pew suggested, “is that in an age of highly polarized politics, Democrats and Republicans differ not only in their values, attitudes, and policy positions, but, increasingly, in their basic perceptions of reality.”

Or, as seems more likely, Democrats are actually unable to perceive reality.

34 posted on 09/01/2010 9:41:52 AM PDT by chesley (Eat what you want, and die like a man.)
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To: luvbach1
Yes, 5% of blacks do know better. OK, maybe 7%.

Meanwhile the Asians and Hispanics zip along in business.
Yes there are many entrepreneurs Hispanics. Look at the Viet Names - they're doing fine. It's really a mindset. Either you want to be successful or you don't and you keep trying to accomplish your dreams.

35 posted on 09/01/2010 9:49:54 AM PDT by nmh (Intelligent people recognize Intelligent Design (God).)
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To: SeekAndFind
The author's example of "balance" actually shows that it is the democrats that always look at things politically:

This phenomenon was apparent during the Bush years, when it was Republicans who were more bullish on the economy. In a 2004 Pew poll, only 12 percent of liberal Democrats characterized economic conditions as “excellent” or “good,” compared with 62 percent of conservative Republicans. In a 2006 poll, Republicans with household incomes below $50,000 were nearly three times as likely as Democrats in the same income group to say that economic conditions were “excellent” or “good” (48 percent to 17 percent). Similarly, 65 percent of Republicans with household incomes of $75,000 and above gave the economy an “excellent” or “good” rating, compared with only 31 percent of Democrats in that income group.

In 2004, the economy was in very good shape. Even in 2006, the economy was still going well; it wasn't until the Democrats took over in 2007 when the economy started falling apart, and oddly that's when democrats started saying everything was great.

36 posted on 09/01/2010 10:03:52 AM PDT by CharlesWayneCT
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To: wardaddy

a higher proportion work for the government where pay continues to go up

That’s what I thought ...


37 posted on 09/01/2010 10:52:28 AM PDT by DontTreadOnMe2009 (So stop treading on me already!)
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To: nmh

“To make matters worse, they do the worst educationally, they do the worst financially and they are not as business savvy as other racial groups. In other words, they are ignorant and easily lead by a black person”

That’s what makes this so HIDEOUS. All the other groups come from TRULY oppressive backgrounds and make it, usually starting with nothing. These people start off with everything and do nothing with it to better themselves. There’s no reason that they shouldn’t be making a REAL life for themselves and getting off the dole and adding to the treasury.


38 posted on 09/01/2010 1:23:20 PM PDT by Niuhuru (The Internet is the digital AIDS; adapting and successfully destroying the MSM host.)
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To: nmh

“Meanwhile the Asians and Hispanics zip along in business.
Yes there are many entrepreneurs Hispanics. Look at the Viet Names - they’re doing fine. It’s really a mindset”

The mindset is work or starve. Furthermore, they can own businesses with a safe environment. They also have the ability to get a safety net while setting up and getting organized. They work like fiends and if they aren’t on welfare, they are working like animals in construction and restaurants as busboys and waitresses. Then with scholarships and other bonuses they are moving upward and onward.


39 posted on 09/01/2010 1:27:58 PM PDT by Niuhuru (The Internet is the digital AIDS; adapting and successfully destroying the MSM host.)
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To: Hardraade
It’s all going to program, isn’t it? Upbeat blacks. Beatup whites.

Full credit!


Frowning takes 68 muscles.
Smiling takes 6.
Pulling this trigger takes 2.
I'm lazy.

40 posted on 09/01/2010 2:10:35 PM PDT by The Comedian
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