U.S. middle class worried about money and leadership

A new opinion poll shows middle-class Americans are deeply worried about finances, critical of political and business leaders, and frustrated by the high cost of college.

Thursday’s report from the Heartland Monitor Poll says nearly half of Americans consider themselves middle class, which they define as having financial security and holding a steady job.

But a majority of respondents say they are worried a serious medical problem or job loss could push them out of the middle class.

Speaking at a seminar on middle class concerns, the head of the Northern Virginia Community College said the key to a secure job with a middle class salary is higher education.

But Robert Templin also said millions of U.S. jobs are going unfilled at a time of high unemployment because too few people have the math, science, and computer skills employers need.

According to Templin, by 2018 more than six out of 10 jobs will require post-secondary education. He added the United States is cutting investments in higher education just as the need for it is growing.

“America is disinvesting in higher education, pushing the financial burden for college-going from taxpayers to individuals. Higher education now is not seen as a public benefit; it is seen as a private good,” he said. “And we expect families to pay the bill themselves.”

Reduced education aid is particularly hard on minority groups who need education to overcome the effects of poverty and language barriers, Templin said.

The poll was conducted on behalf of the National Journal magazine and the Allstate Insurance Co.  The data comes from a phone survey of 1,000 adults and has a margin of error just more than three percent.

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