This twentieth installment of the Heartland Monitor Poll is a snapshot of American opinion during a period of modest yet uneven economic growth and on the eve of a likely contentious mid-term election season.
Over the past five years, the Heartland Monitor poll has tracked Americans’ opinions on a host of economic and personal financial topics. It has covered the optimism of a new Obama presidency, the hope for American economic recovery and the anxiety of a Middle Class trying to find their footing in a challenging economic environment.
Throughout these polls, we’ve measured a high level of cynicism among the American public towards the country’s major institutions and leadership. This latest survey tells a similar tale, with a high level of concern about the direction of the country on nearly every important issue, and a belief by 70% of Americans that the country needs major changes.
But, more importantly, as we’ve seen throughout the history of the Heartland Monitor polls, Americans are remarkably resilient and optimistic about their own abilities and the country’s potential. The survey shows that Americans recognize that change will be an uphill climb, but they also believe that average Americans can make a difference on important issues through their own individual actions. Americans believe that direct action like volunteering can be particularly effective, and they think that their day-to- day life would be more positively affected by an increase in community volunteerism than having a President that agrees with them on the issues.
After all, Americans recognize that the biggest social changes in the country’s history have come about not because of “top-down” government policies, but through popular movements led by average Americans. Thinking about today’s challenges, Americans believe that the public can and should take the lead to change and improve the country, and that change should come through social movements, community volunteerism, and through public participation in the democratic process.