Americans Dramatically Overestimate Number Living in Chronic Poverty

A recent broadcast report noted that millions of Americans don’t know they’re living in poverty… at least what the federal government defines officially as living in poverty. That’s because they are not living in what most Americans envision as poverty. Instead, they are experiencing a temporary cash flow challenge such as a job loss.

Rather than the official definition, what Americans think of as poverty is what experts call “chronic poverty.” This  means living for years without enough income to provide for the basic necessities of life.

Approximately 2-3% of Americans live in chronic poverty. However, voters believe that number is much higher. Three-out-of-four voters (75%) think at least 10% live in chronic poverty. Twenty-six percent (26%) think the total is 20% or higher.

See question wording and crosstab results.

Partly, that misunderstanding may result from the fact that 38% of voters have family or friends who constantly struggle to make ends meet.

Voters recognize that chronic poverty is caused by systemic forces. Just 19% believe that those who experience such difficult circumstances are simply lazy. Most believe that education and other factors play a role. Eighty-three percent (83%) believe people in chronic poverty need a mentor to help them find a job.

The importance of focusing on the needs of those in chronic poverty is highlighted in Scott Rasmussen’s latest book, The Sun Is Still Rising: Politics Has Failed But America Will Not. releases new public opinion data every day relating to topics in the news and other items of interest. Please sign up to receive the latest data and insights each day via email.

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The national survey of 1,001 Registered Voters was conducted January 12-13, 2019 by and HarrisX, a polling company specializing in online surveys (see Methodology). It has a 3.1 percentage point Margin of Error with a 95% level of confidence.

Neither Scott Rasmussen nor has any relationship with Rasmussen Reports® (see About Us).

Posted in Poll Results

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