A new national survey developed by PR giant Burson-Marsteller, conducted by research firm PSB, sheds light on Americans’ views about the current state of the economy (with a focus on manufacturing) and their expectations for the future.
According to the firm’s new report, Making It in America: The View from America, only 42 percent of Americans with a high school education or less say they have the right skills to succeed in the 21st century, while 71 percent with a college education or more say they do. When asked what emotion best describes their feeling about the future of the U.S. economy, Americans with high school or less are 25 percent less likely to say they are optimistic than those with a college education or more. And they are 50 percent more likely to feel scared about the future of the U.S. economy than those with a college education or more.
Education level also plays an important role in how Americans feel about the future of the U.S. economy. Thirty-eight percent of Americans with a college education or more think the American economy is headed in the right direction, compared to 30 percent of those with a high school education or less. When it comes to job security and the role of automation, only 14 percent of Americans with a college education or more say a machine could replace their job in five years, versus 30 percent with a high school education or less.
However, most Americans are in agreement that business and government should work together in strengthening the economy. Fifty-seven percent of Americans say the government should play a major role in strengthening the economy and 86 percent support tax credits for companies that pay for workers to train in other, more modern work skills. Sixty-one percent say the government should promote job training and education programs for displaced workers to address loss of jobs to automation and machine intelligence. Twenty-two percent say the government should enact policies to protect those jobs and 10 percent support an increase in corporate taxes to fund programs for displaced workers.
Other key findings:
Education level matters when it comes to Americans’ outlook on tech
Fifty-five percent of Americans with a college education or more say technology will make overall employment better five years from now versus 45 percent with a high school education or less. Sixty-five percent with college or more and 55 percent with high school or less say technology will make job satisfaction better five years from now. In addition, 57 percent of Americans with college or more and 49 percent with high school or less say technology will make wages/salaries better five years from now.
More educated Americans affiliate more closely with business leaders
Fifty-two percent of business leaders believe the high-tech industry is most likely to create jobs in the U.S. in the next five years compared to 48 percent with a college education or more and 37 percent with a high school education or less. Fifty-eight percent of business leaders say spending more on infrastructure is the public policy action that will most support job creation in the U.S. compared to 31 percent with college or more and just 15 percent for those with high school or less. Furthermore, Americans with college or more are nearly twice as likely as those with high school or less to agree with business leaders (34 percent) that reading comprehension and critical thinking are most important for success, at 23 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
The 2016 presidential election was driven by economic divide
CNN exit poll findings show that in key election states including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Americans with a college education or more voted for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while those with a high school education or less voted for Donald Trump. In Michigan, 49 percent of those with high school or less voted for Trump while 51 percent of those with college or more voted for Clinton. In Pennsylvania, 56 percent of those with high school or less voted for Trump and 51 percent of those with college or more voted for Clinton. In Wisconsin, 54 percent of those with high school or less voted for Trump versus 56 percent of those with college or more who voted for Clinton. This was not the case in Ohio, where 52 percent of those with high school or less voted for Trump while 42 percent of those with college or more voted for Clinton.
Regardless of education level, Americans trust companies but distrust business leaders
Sixty-one percent of all Americans have an unfavorable view of business leaders and 73 percent say the wage gap between workers and business leaders will grow in the next five years. Yet, 59 percent of Americans say large companies have more of a positive impact than the federal government does. Interestingly, 96 percent of Americans are favorable towards small businesses versus 54 percent for large companies.
“Our new survey finds that despite their doubts about the current state of the country and the economy, Americans are optimistic about the future,” said Don Baer, worldwide chair and CEO of Burson-Marsteller, in a news release. “The survey results suggest if business and government work together to provide training and opportunity for the jobs of the future, Americans believe they can succeed despite current challenges.”
From June 1-5, 2017, PSB conducted 1,500 interviews with a General Population Survey. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 2.53 percent and larger for subgroups. The data are weighted to be nationally representative. This survey builds off the June 2017 Executive Survey by McKinsey & Company, which surveyed 259 U.S. business leaders representing the full range of regions, industries, company sizes, functional specialties and tenures.