ANXIETY NOSTALGIA AND MISTRUST

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FINDINGS FROM THE 2015 AMERICAN VALUES SURVEY 17

to say that overregulation of business is a source of America’s economic problems. Republicans

(70%) and Tea Party members (72%) are much more likely than independents (53%) and Democrats

(45%) to say illegal immigrants are somewhat or very responsible for the country’s economic

problems.

There are also stark divisions by race and social class on the issue of whether illegal immigrants

who take American jobs are responsible for America’s current economic problems. Majorities of

white (58%) and black Americans (52%) say illegal immigrants are at least somewhat responsible

for America’s current economic woes, compared to 40% of Hispanic Americans. But there

is a sizable class gap among white Americans. Roughly two-thirds (66%) of white working-class

Americans say illegal immigrants are at least somewhat responsible for America’s current economic

conditions, compared to fewer than half (44%) of white college-educated Americans.

Are America’s Best Days Ahead or Behind?

Americans have become more pessimistic about the country’s future than they were just a few

years earlier. Today, Americans are evenly divided over whether America’s best days are ahead of

us (49%) or behind us (49%). In 2012, a majority (54%) of the public said that America’s best days

were ahead, while fewer than four in ten (38%) said that they were behind.

The extent to which Americans express pessimism about the future varies widely by race, social

class, religious affiliation, and political affiliation. Six in ten (60%) black Americans and a majority

(56%) of Hispanic Americans say that

America’s best days are still to come, while

fewer than half (47%) of white Americans

agree. A majority (52%) of white Americans

say America’s best days are behind

us. There are substantial differences of

opinion among whites by social class. Only

about four in ten (42%) white working-class

Americans say that America’s best days are

still to come, compared to 56% who say

they are in the past. Conversely, a majority

(53%) of white college-educated Americans

see America’s best days ahead of us.

Perceptions about America’s future vary by

religious affiliation. Among religious groups,

white evangelical Protestants and white

mainline Protestants are markedly more

pessimistic than other groups, with major-

FIGURE 4. In general, do you think America’s

best days are ahead of us or behind us?

60

50

40

30

20

10

0

54

38

8

49

2012 2015

49 Ahead of us

Sources: PRRI 2015 American Values Survey;

2

Behind us

Depends/Don’t

know/Refused

PRRI, Race, Class, and Culture Survey, September 2012.

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