Americans Fear Poverty Will Worsen, Poll Finds

Poll by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, JAN. 19, 2006 ( Nearly two-thirds of Americans fear that poverty will increase in the United States in 2006, while seven in 10 believe there are more poor people today than a year ago.

So says the latest Poverty Pulse survey by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The poll found that 63% of those surveyed worry that they could themselves become poor.

The poll, whose results were presented today at a news conference in New Orleans, also found that nearly all Americans, 97%, think that it is important to decrease or eliminate poverty in the United States.

More than half, 56%, had donated money to organizations that assist the poor.

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% said the responsibility lies with the federal government, while 29% said it is the task of “everyone — the general public.”

Another 17% assigned the task to the poor themselves and 2% held churches responsible.

However, 90% of the public said that it is important for the federal government to ensure that all poor people have health coverage. And 91% believe that health care should be guaranteed to all children.<br>
Conducted among 1,131 members of the general adult population in December, the poll is the sixth yearly Poverty Pulse survey since 2000. Unlike the previous years, however, the December poll involved online questioning rather than telephone calls to gauge public opinion. The survey’s possible margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

CCHD, the domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. bishops’ conference, uses the Poverty Pulses to assess understanding of poverty in America.

In other findings, the Poverty Pulse learned that:

— asked to name “the single best way to permanently break the cycle of poverty in the United States,” 28% said “pay living wages to low-income workers,” 20% responded “better education for children,” and 14% said “a better economy.”

— most people think that an increase in poverty will detrimentally affect everyone, with 35% predicting it would reduce the quality of life for all Americans, 28% saying it would increase crime, and 20% anticipating more homelessness as a result.

— when respondents were asked (without suggested answers) to name “the single biggest social problem facing the U.S.,” poverty ranked third on the list (chosen by 7%), just below health care and racism (each at 8%) which both ranked first, and above war-U.S. involvement in war, named by 4%.

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