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In recent weeks, we've seen indications that Americans are deeply pessimistic about the state of the economy. Now, there's evidence that we're feeling gloomy not just about the present, but about the future too.
Just 44 percent of respondents to a new Gallup poll said it was very or somewhat likely that today's young people will have a better life than their parents. Fifty-five percent said it was very or somewhat unlikely.
That's the worst response since the question was first asked in 1983. It's far worse, even, than the results the survey yielded during the depths of the Great Recession in March 2009. At that time, 59 percent said it was likely that young people's lives would be better than their parents', while 40 percent said it was unlikely.
Older Americans were much more pessimistic about the future than younger ones. Among those between the ages of 50 and 64, just 36 percent said they expected younger Americans to have a better life than their parents, and among those 65 and over, just 37 percent did.
By contrast, 57 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said they expected their lives to be better than their parents'. Among Americans aged 30-44, 45 percent agreed with that view--a total just about in sync with the results as a whole.
Gallup didn't probe for the cause of Americans' anxieties. But other surveys have suggested that fears about economic globalization--and particularly the movement of jobs abroad--play a large role.
In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, just 28 percent of respondents said the economy is getting better, while 44 percent said it's getting worse. A New York Times/CBS News poll came away with a similar result: Twenty-three percent said it's getting better, and 39 percent said it's getting worse. And those surveys were both taken before the release of a government report that found the economy grew by a deeply disappointing 1.8 percent in the first quarter of 2010.