Polls Find Kids Are More Optimistic Than Adults About America’s Future

WHITE PLAINS and UTICA, N.Y. – Children are much more optimistic about America’s ability to solve the problems affecting the nation, according to a pair of nationwide surveys conducted by Weekly Reader, one of the leading K-12 educational publishers, and IBOPE Zogby International, a global public opinion polling and market research firm.

The results show that children and adults agree on the top two issues facing the United States today. The economy/jobs was cited by large majorities of adults (89 percent) and children (64 percent) as our country’s number one challenge in similar polls conducted by the two organizations. Health care was the clear second choice for both groups, but by a much larger percentage of kids (25 percent of adults, 44 percent of children).

However, children and adults surveyed showed vastly different sentiments when asked how they felt about the future of the United States. Children overwhelmingly chose “I feel very hopeful that we will be able to fix our country’s problems” (58 percent), while 75 percent of adults responding to the same choices picked either “I do not feel hopeful” or “I feel somewhat hopeful” about the nation’s future.

“Children are very attuned to adult concerns, so we were not surprised to see a lot of agreement on the importance of the economy and jobs,” said Ira Wolfman, Senior Vice President, editorial, at Weekly Reader. “At the same time, the differences were revealing: Compared to adults, kids are strikingly more optimistic, far less concerned that the president agrees with them on all issues, and much more worried about war and the environment.”

Other findings in the surveys included:

  • What’s the most important quality a president should have? Kids say “honesty.” Adults are not as certain. Fifty-one percent of children said the number one attribute of a president should be his or her honesty. Adults, on the other hand, were evenly split between intelligence and honesty, both chosen by 31 percent of adults. Another big vote getter among adults was “Ideas I agree with,” coming in third with 19 percent, while only 9 percent of children made that choice.
  • Children were much more concerned about war and the environment than adults were. Twenty-four percent of kids picked war as one of their top two issues, and 23 percent picked the environment. For adults, those issues were at the bottom of their lists (seven and five percent, respectively), while immigration (17 percent), energy (14 percent), and security (14 percent) came in much higher.
  • Adults are far more likely to say they have discussed the election with their family. Eight-six percent of adults responded that they have talked about the upcoming election with their family, while 43 percent of kids say they have had a family conversation on the election.

The polls used mostly identical questions but different techniques to survey their respective audiences. Weekly Reader’s unscientific poll was conducted via its website and included more than 2,100 student responses. Three-quarters of the students were in grades 3 – 6. IBOPE Zogby International surveyed 2,175 adults through its online panel, which is a statistically significant representation of the adult population of the U.S.

“Polling both adults and school kids and comparing results gives us valuable insight into how a broad constituency is relating to politics and the direction of our country,” said Kjell de Orr, Chief Executive Officer of IBOPE Zogby International. “As in this case, I often find the student responses to be both pure and thoughtful, and it indicates our future is in good hands with these bright young people.” De Orr added, “Partnering with the highly respected Weekly Reader on this project is an honor, and also great fun.”

In the Weekly Reader poll, children also were asked what the one piece of advice they would offer to the incoming president. Their heartfelt responses included:

  • You need to cut gas prices now, please … for my mom.
  • Four days of school would be nice, thanks. Oh, and lower taxes please.
  • Always keep hope. Even if things don’t go the way you want, it’s ok. It’s just like drawing. The lines are never perfect but you keep hope and try it again.
  • Please look at Congress’s salaries and make cuts there before you cut schools.
  • Fix the stinking economy!
  • Take robots out and make more jobs for people.
  • Please stop bullying in schools and bullying online.

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