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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 02/22/2011

Race and recession poll: African Americans big on optimism

By Peyton M. Craighill

Sharp optimism among African Americans in the face of a dreadful recession is a lead finding from the new the Washington Post-Kaiser-Harvard race and recession poll.

Hopefulness among African Americans is evident across a variety of measures: 85 percent of African Americans are optimistic about the future, 62 percent say their personal finances will improve over the next year, 59 percent think America's best years are yet to come and 32 percent say the economy is already recovering (a relatively low figure, but well above what whites and Hispanics say about the trajectory of the economy).

Optimism is not monolithic among African Americans, however. Experiences with daily life due to the recession are a key ingredient in reported levels of optimism throughout the poll.

Blacks who report major changes in their lives due to the recession are significantly less optimistic across these measures than are those who report no such changes. Specifically, 74 percent of those who've experienced major changes are optimistic, rising to around 90 percent for those who experienced only minor or no changes.

There is a similar pattern in assessments of economic recovery: among African Americans who experienced major changes, 18 percent see recovery as already here, compared with 48 percent who experienced no changes. For those who saw major changes, just under half say the best years for the U.S. job market are ahead. That rises to more than 60 percent among those less effected.

Demographic factors such as age, income and education also play a part in separating the optimists from the pessimists. Those with more income and education are more optimistic than those with less. And young African Americans are far more optimistic than older blacks.

                        Among African Americans
                        Recession caused changes: 
                          Major   Minor   None
Optimistic about future    74%      91%    88%
Economy is recovering      18       33     48
Best years are ahead       48       65     61
Finances will improve      62       57     71

By Peyton M. Craighill  | February 22, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Race  
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