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Despite Romney's suggestion, Americans' pessimism is nothing new

The statement

"The majority of Americans now doubt that our children will have a better future."

Mitt Romney, in his speech at the RNC Thursday

The ruling

Mitt Romney made his case for the presidency by reminding his audience members of the optimism they felt four years ago when Barack Obama was elected — and the pessimism they feel now.

"The majority of Americans now doubt that our children will have a better future," Romney said Thursday at the Republican National Convention.

We wondered whether he was right about Americans' gloomy outlook.

A poll of 500 adults nationwide conducted in May for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal asked, "Do you feel confident or not confident that life for our children's generation will be better than it has been for us?"

A majority — 63 percent — responded that they were "not confident," while 30 percent answered "confident." Seven percent were unsure.

But this is not a new phenomenon, as Romney suggests. A majority has said that nearly every time the poll has been conducted — 10 times since 1992. Only in December 2001 did more respondents (49 percent) say they were confident about their children's future, rather than not confident (42 percent).

A similar poll conducted for CBS News and the New York Times in April asked 957 adults this question: "Do you think the future of the next generation of Americans will be better, worse, or about the same as life today?"

The "worse" answer had a plurality: 47 percent. Twenty-four percent answered "better," and 23 percent said "about the same." That poll, conducted six times since 2009, also reflected widespread pessimism, with "worse" being the most frequent answer every time.

Finally, a USA Today/Gallup poll of 1,012 adults conducted in May surveyed whether Americans were satisfied with "the opportunity for the next generation of Americans to live better than their parents." Nearly six in 10 Americans — 58 percent — said they were dissatisfied, while 40 percent said they were satisfied.

From Gallup: "Among partisan groups, Democrats today are the most upbeat about the financial opportunity available to the next generation, but only on a relative basis. Less than half of Democrats (48%) are satisfied with the opportunity for the next generation to live better than their parents, compared with 37% of Republicans and 35% of independents. Democrats are also significantly more likely than Republicans to feel satisfied with Americans' willingness to work hard to get ahead, 59% vs. 47%."

Back to Romney, who said that "the majority of Americans now doubt that our children will have a better future."

We found three polls that support his claim. Americans are indeed pessimistic about their children's prospects. But that's nothing new, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. For at least the past 20 years, we Americans have expected that our kids will be worse off than we are. Romney cast this national outlook as specifically an Obama-era phenomenon.

That makes his use of the word "now" a bit misleading.

We rate his statement Half True.

Molly Moorhead, Times staff writer. This item has been edited for print. Read more fact-checks at

Despite Romney's suggestion, Americans' pessimism is nothing new 08/31/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 31, 2012 10:06pm]
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