A poll released Thursday by Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., found that 70 percent of black students ages 15 to 18 thought their standard of living would be better than their parents, compared with just 36 percent of white students.
Overall, 39 percent of the respondents thought they would have a higher living standard.
Those numbers and the level of optimism among black students appeared to be closely tied to their enthusiasm for President Barack Obama, making for what some call the "Obama effect."
Black youth, and black people generally speaking, have always had an optimistic attitude about life--how else can you wake up in the morning knowing that you would be working back breaking labor in cotton fields to build someone else's wealth if you didn't think positively? Black parents have always told their children they can be anything - long before Barack Obama was even born. Having President Obama in the White House, though, does lend credibility to that encouragement.
Asked about the president's performance, more than two-thirds of black students rated his performance as "good" or "very good," compared with 23 percent of white students. Overall, about a quarter of the students who were surveyed rated the president highly.
DeQuan Foster, a 15-year-old high school sophomore in Newark, N.J., agreed that having someone who looks like him leading the country has strongly influenced his belief in the future and what he can personally achieve.
"You're always told anything is possible - but when you see it, you believe it. It makes me want to try twice as hard," said Foster, who's active in the theater and his local Boys & Girls Club and hopes to start his own entertainment company after college.
It's an attitude that mirrored the findings of a recent Harvard Institute of Politics survey of 18- to- 29-year-olds, and that could have ramifications on November's midterm elections, said John Della Volpe, the institute's polling director.
The Hamilton College survey involved 818 high school sophomores, juniors and seniors from across the country who were surveyed last month. The poll, funded by the school's Levitt Center for Public Affairs, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
The Harvard Institute of Politics survey released last month found that among 18- to- 29-year-olds surveyed, a third of whites and just 18 percent of Hispanics planned to vote in the midterm election.
That compares with 41 percent of African Americans who said the same.