Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ethnic Americans Support Federal Stimulus Spending; Most Americans Question Current Impact of Package

/PRNewswire/ -- Ethnic Americans have a far better image of the $787 billion stimulus package than their white counterparts, with 84 percent of African Americans saying it was "a good thing" for the country, while only 45 percent of white adults agree with that statement, according to a recent poll commissioned by New America Media (NAM).

In total, the poll conducted by Bendixen & Associates found that more than two-thirds of Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans said the legislation was a "good thing" for their families and communities. And most Americans have a positive outlook about the future. More than three-fifths of adults from all ethnic and racial groups were optimistic that their personal financial situation will improve over the next year.

Nevertheless, most ethnic adults agreed with whites that, as of now, they are not aware of actual benefits from the legislation. These poll results strongly indicate the Obama administration has failed to inform the American public on ways that the stimulus spending may be having a positive impact on families and the national economy.

Moreover, the poll painted a picture of many ethnic Americans struggling to survive in the difficult economic times. More than 60 percent of Hispanics worry about their ability to pay housing expenses; 50 percent of Native Americans worry whether they can afford basic food, medicine and clothing for their families; and more than 30 percent of African Americans and Asian Americans worry about losing their current full-time job.

"Our poll shows the Obama administration has not done a good job of informing Americans about the economic opportunities that currently exist because of the stimulus package," said Sandy Close, executive director of NAM, which represents the interest of more than 2,500 ethnic media outlets.

"Across the country," she said, "the Recovery Act has made billions of dollars available for extended unemployment benefits and health insurance for laid off workers. It has appropriated money for small businesses and arts organizations. It has prevented thousands of teachers from being laid off and kept firehouses from closing. Our poll shows that across the racial and ethnic spectrum most Americans remain unaware of the actual impact on their communities."

In some instances, perceptions towards the stimulus package appear to be shaped by factors well outside of its influence. Two-thirds of Americans say their monthly take-home pay has "stayed the same" or actually "decreased" in the last six months, even though the administration said the stimulus package would cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans.

Overall, approximately half of Hispanics, Asian Americans, whites and Native Americans say that - as of now - the stimulus package has had "no effect" or that it has "made the economy worse." Only African Americans believe the stimulus package "has made the economy better." There are also regional differences regarding the impact on the economy: 48 percent of those polled in the Northeast said the economic stimulus had made the economy better but only 29 percent felt that way in the Midwest.

The poll is based on 1,000 interviews with whites, Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans during the last week of August and the first two weeks of September, and has a margin of error of three percent. It is the first poll to measure public attitudes about the stimulus package along racial and ethnic lines, with questions administered in English, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese or Vietnamese depending on the language of preference of the respondent.

The survey also found that:

-- Americans doubt the effectiveness of the direct relief to state
governments to prevent layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police
officers. Large majorities of whites, Hispanics, Asian Americans and
Native Americans say the stimulus package has not had a significant
impact on avoiding dismissals of public employees. Only African
Americans give the legislation credit for having been effective on
this front.
-- Two-fifths of whites and Asian Americans and one-third of Hispanics
said they were aware of newly-created projects, such as construction
at military bases, ports, bridges and tunnels, while only one-fourth
of all Americans are aware of "green jobs" that have been created in
their community during the last six months.
-- Only about one-third of African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans
and Native Americans believe contractors and businesses in their
communities know how to access stimulus dollars.
-- More than four-fifths of all Americans do not know of any small
business that has received a government loan over the last six months.
-- Approximately two-thirds of all respondents say that they are also not
aware of any arts programs, environmental projects, health research
centers or affordable housing programs in their community that have
received stimulus dollars.
-- One-quarter of Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans and
two-fifths of whites and African Americans believe there is still time
for local businesses and community groups to apply for economic
stimulus dollars. The rest either think that most of the money has
already been spent or have no opinion on the matter.

"The good news is that there's still time for all Americans to get help from the Recovery Act," said Ms. Close, noting that less than half of the stimulus funds have been spent so far. "The problem is that across racial and ethnic lines most Americans don't know this. They feel like the stimulus train has left the station and they're still waiting on the platform."

Sergio Bendixen, president of Bendixen & Associates, noted that the poll found that the nation's economy remained under a "black cloud" as the anniversary of the 2008 stock market crash approached. "A majority of whites, Hispanics and Native Americans think that the American economy is off on the wrong track," said Mr. Bendixen. "And only four percent of all Americans say there are a lot of jobs available in their community."

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