Heartland Monitor Poll: Insights on the New Economic Landscape

More Than 14,000 Interviews as Part of the Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Series Reveal American Optimism in the Face of a Gloomy Economic Outlook
Aug 28, 2012 5:00 PM ET
Press Release

Thought Leader Summits in Tampa and Charlotte explore Heartland findings and the implications for 2012 elections

(3BL Media) Northbrook, IL - August 28, 2012 - Although a majority of Americans (57 percent) are pessimistic about the current direction of the country, a full 60 percent believe that their own financial well-being is determined by their actions and not events out of their control. These findings, which demonstrate the continuing impact of the Great Recession on Americans and their personal finances, are drawn from The Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll, which over three years has sought to understand the American experience and attitudes on the changing economy and to give voice to the concerns and views of middle class Americans.

On August 30 and September 4, Allstate will host two summits in conjunction with National Journal and The Atlantic, which correspond with the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in Tampa and Charlotte, respectively. Both events will assemble leading figures from the worlds of politics, media, business, and academia to discuss the combined insights from the 13 Heartland Monitor Polls that have been conducted since April 2009 and the relevance of those insights toward the upcoming election.

Since its inception, The Heartland Monitor Poll has focused on a wide range of issues providing important insights on attitudes toward retirement, unemployment, changing demographics, home ownership, education, manufacturing and the financial stability of American families. This research has helped to paint an increasingly complex picture of middle class Americans’ financial situation and political mindset that extends beyond the rhetoric and political discord that dominates public dialogue. 

Findings from the polling series include:

  • Nearly one-in-five (17 percent) Americans say they have a hard time making ends meet each month. Another 52 percent indicate that while they get by each month, they find it is difficult to save and invest for the future.
  • A plurality (44 percent) of Americans expect that their financial situation will improve by next year, with only around one-in-ten (12 percent) indicating that they think they will be worse off.
  • African-Americans (72 percent) and Hispanics (59 percent) are much more likely than Whites (38 percent) to believe that their financial situation will improve by next year. Americans aged 18-44 (55 percent) also believe their situation will improve.
  • According to the most recent Heartland poll, information from political candidates (43 percent) and large corporations (42 percent) is trusted by only a minority of respondents.
  • Although 42 percent of 18 to 29 year olds agree that a four-year degree is a ticket to the middle class, 55 percent say they could perform their job responsibilities just as well had they not obtained as much education. Forty-six percent say a four-year college degree is an economic burden.
  • One-third of Americans (34 percent) believe the United States will have the world’s strongest economy 20 years from now, roughly in line with those who hold similar expectations of China’s economy (37 percent). Respondents cited higher education system (74 percent), science and research (66 percent), workforce (56 percent) and corporate leaders (57 percent) as America’s key strengths.
  • Forty-four percent of Americans believe that compared to their parents they have had more opportunity to get ahead, with 24% percent indicating they have had about the same amount of opportunity.
  • Despite the economic headwinds, three-in-five (60 percent) Americans indicate they are currently living the American Dream.

“In 2009, when Allstate partnered with the National Journal for the first Heartland Monitor Poll, America was in the midst of an unprecedented financial and economic crisis, and as a company, we could not simply stand by when the hopes of so many were being put to the test,” said Joan Walker, executive vice president of corporate relations for Allstate. “We embarked on this research expedition to not only understand what was happening to average Americans, but to also use these findings to start conversations about solutions. Over the past three years, we have learned that Americans have resounding optimism about the uncertain economy and believe that they control their own destiny as it relates to the American Dream.”

The Heartland Monitor summits will provide the opportunity for insightful conversations about what has been learned from the groundbreaking Heartland Monitor surveys, the relevance of those findings for the 2012 election and how the findings might help leaders to better understand the views and needs of Americans today and into the future. Further details are as follows:

Thursday, August 30
4:00-5:30 pm

Carne Chophouse
1536 E. 7th Avenue

Tuesday, September 4

12:00-1:30 pm

McColl Center for Visual Arts
721 N. Tryon Street

The events are invitation-only, but members of the media may request to be added to the press list. Please RSVP to register@theatlantic.com and indicate the media outlet you will be representing. For further information about each summit on the Heartland Monitor Poll, please contact: kate.hollcraft@allstate.com or matthew.clark@fticonsulting.com

Key Findings from the Heartland Monitor Poll (April 2009-August 2012)

Americans are pessimistic about the current direction of the country and their personal financial situations.

  • By a near two-to-one margin (57 percent-33 percent), Americans believe the country is on the wrong track vs. moving in the right direction.
  • More than half (56 percent) of all Americans rate their personal financial situations as “Only Fair” or “Poor.”

In the face of the economic downturn, Americans are changing their spending habits in order to minimize their debt.

  • Over 60 percent of Americans indicate they have had to cut back on spending for things such as eating out, clothing, and vacations in order to pay down debt or not acquire new debt.
  • Nearly four-in-ten (38 percent) Americans say they have had to cut back on saving and investing for the future. Another one-in-five (22 percent) say they have been encouraged to save and invest more for the future by cutting spending.
  • Almost one-third (31 percent) of Americans report that their debt has decreased, while a quarter (25 percent) indicates it has increased.
  • Fifty percent of Americans view a college education as an economic burden that is too expensive and requires too much debt.

Despite the persistent gloomy state of the economy, Americans remain optimistic about the future.

  • More than three-in-five (62 percent) Americans believe that the economy will improve over the next 12 months.
  • A plurality (44 percent) of Americans expect that their financial situation will improve by next year, with only around one-in-ten (12 percent) indicating that they think they will be worse off.
  • 44 percent of Americans believe that compared to their parents they have had more opportunity to get ahead, with 24 percent indicating they have had about the same amount of opportunity.

Americans remain confident in their own abilities to get ahead and secure their financial well-being.

  • Sixty percent of Americans say that their financial well-being is determined by their own actions, like working hard, leading a healthy life and investing carefully, and not events out of their control.
  • A plurality (40 percent) of Americans say that the best way to increase their own opportunity is through their own efforts, like doing a good job, increasing one’s skill-set, and obtaining more education.

Despite the difficult situations in which they find themselves, most Americans believe they are living the American Dream.

  • Three-in-five (60 percent) Americans indicate they are currently living the American Dream.
  • A strong rate of Americans believe that home ownership helps people live the American Dream (73 percent).


Notes to Editors

Survey Methodology
Since April 2009, the Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Polls have explored American attitudes on the changing economy. The 13 polls, conducted by Ed Reilly and Jeremy Ruch of FTI Strategic Communications, a communications-strategy consulting firm, have surveyed between 1,000 and 1,200 adults each time, with a margin of error ranging between 2.8 and 3.1 percentage points. To provide more detailed data, several surveys have oversampled specific populations such as young people, retirees and racial minorities.

About Allstate
The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL) is the nation's largest publicly held personal lines insurer. Widely known through the "You're In Good Hands With Allstate®" slogan, Allstate is reinventing protection and retirement to help nearly 16 million households insure what they have today and better prepare for tomorrow. Consumers access Allstate insurance products (auto, home, life and retirement) and services through Allstate agencies, independent agencies, and Allstate exclusive financial representatives in the U.S. and Canada, as well as via www.allstate.com and 1-800 Allstate®. As part of Allstate's commitment to strengthen local communities, The Allstate Foundation, Allstate employees, agency owners and the corporation provided $28 million in 2011 to thousands of nonprofit organizations and important causes across the United States.

For an overview of the other Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Polls, visit http://www.allstate.com/heartland-monitor. Additional information is available at www.storiesfromtheheartland.com.

About National Journal Group
National Journal is Washington’s premier source for 360-degree insight on politics and policy. With up-to-the-minute breaking news and analysis at NationalJournal.com, the essential intelligence of National Journal Daily, the knowledge and depth of National Journal magazine, and the comprehensive campaign coverage of National Journal Hotline, National Journal delivers everything you need to know to stay ahead of the curve in Washington.

About FTI Consulting
FTI Consulting, Inc. is a global business advisory firm dedicated to helping organizations protect and enhance enterprise value in an increasingly complex legal, regulatory and economic environment. With more than 3,800 employees located in 24 countries, FTI Consulting professionals work closely with clients to anticipate, illuminate and overcome complex business challenges in areas such as investigations, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory issues, reputation management, strategic communications and restructuring. The company generated $1.56 billion in revenues during fiscal year 2011. More information can be found at www.fticonsulting.com.

Kyle Donash
+1 (847) 402-5000