Americans Getting More Cynical, Less Charitable

Article excerpt

Americans are more cynical and less compassionate than they were seven years ago, a poll reports.

Attitudes toward minorities, immigrants and the poor all have hardened over the seven years of the poll, particularly when it comes to spending money and expanding opportunities for them.

In 1987, 71 percent of those surveyed said the government should take care of people who cannot take care of themselves - but that fell to 57 percent this year. Only 41 percent said the government should help the needy even if it means going deeper in debt, the first time that assertion failed to win majority support.

Also, this year for the first time a majority of whites (51 percent) agreed with the statement that equal rights for racial minorities have been pushed too far, up from 42 percent two years earlier. And 82 percent said people coming to the United States to live should be restricted and controlled more than they are now, up 6 percentage points from 1992.

The latest survey by the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press questioned 4,809 adults over 18, and was conducted July 12-27. Its margin of error is plus or minus 2 to 3 percentage points. It was released Tuesday.

Poll director Andrew Kohut said: "It's an unusual set of trends for a time in which the economy's been expanding and unemployment's been going down." One reason may be that the new wave of jobs offers relatively low wages, benefits and security, he said.

More than 40 percent of those surveyed admitted that they "often don't have enough money to make ends meet." Six in 10 said they don't have enough money to lead the kinds of lives they want to, and only half of those expect they ever will.

On the other hand, those surveyed displayed some increased tolerance on social issues that do not threaten their jobs or pocketbooks. A record high 65 percent of whites said they thought it was all right for blacks and whites to date each other - up from 43 percent in 1987. …

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