Perceptions of poverty shows discrepancies between public opinion and need

Perceptions of poverty shows discrepancies between public opinion and need

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Recent online poll shows discrepancies between public opinion and actual need.

With a record 49.1 million Americans—approximately 1 in 6—currently living in poverty, the issue has taken on an increased urgency, along with a need highlight potential solutions.

To compare and contrast the reality of living in poverty, as illustrated by the Human Needs Index, with public opinion, The Salvation Army recently commissioned the Perceptions of Poverty poll. Its results revealed a public that is frequently sympathetic, but at times misunderstands its neighbors in need.

A note on methodology: the survey was conducted online earlier this year on Vision Critical’s Springboard America panel and included a sample of 1,004 Americans. The data has a margin of error of 3.1 percent.

Below are several of its key findings:

  • On average, Americans put the yearly income for a “poor” family at approximately $18,472. That figure is well below the 2012 poverty level of $23,050 for a family of 4.
  • A majority of Americans across all age groups support the idea that people in poverty deserve assistance. The largest measure of support was found among older generations, with those 55 and older (92%) demonstrating the strongest belief in lending a hand, compared to those 18-34 (85%).
  • 60% of people believe poverty robs people of dignity.
  • 85% of people believe poor people live harder lives because government benefits don’t go far enough to help them.
  • 82% of 18-34-year-olds believe the idea that extending help to underprivileged families sets up their children for success.
  • 52% of people believe that surviving on minimum wage alone is nearly impossible.


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The long walk

The long walk

Ashley grew up Christian in Southern California, attending Salvation Army music

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