The poll of 1,014 adults, commissioned by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the anti-poverty arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, found subtle shifts from a similar poll in 2000 as the economy turned sour and more Americans found themselves out of work.
The number of people who are concerned by poverty in America rose only slightly, from 87 percent to 90 percent. Among major social issues, poverty ranked fourth, behind education, health care and crime.
The poll detected a slight increase in concern that poverty might personally affect people, with 51 percent saying they are concerned that they might one day be poor. Seventy-one percent of low-income people were concerned, compared to 43 percent of higher-income people.
A greater shift was seen in what people see as the cause for poverty -- in 2000, 32 percent thought personal laziness was a factor, but that figure dropped to 25 percent in 2001. The number of people who blamed a lack of employment nearly tripled, jumping from 8 percent in 2000 to 21 percent last year.
The poll, taken three months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, saw a greater willingness to help those most in need. Almost half -- 48 percent -- of people said they were more likely to help the poor, but respondents were nearly evenly divided as to who should help -- 49 percent said the government, 48 percent said the general public, and only 13 percent said the poor themselves.
The poll, conducted for the bishops by the Market Research Bureau, has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Another survey of 1,304 adults by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University found that nearly three-fourths of Americans had donated something to aid victims of the terrorist attacks, ranging from money to clothing to their personal time.
The study showed that two-thirds of respondents had given money, an average of $134 per household, according to the Associated Press. "Even in a time of an economic downturn, the remarkable thing about giving in this country is that Americans dig deeper," said Walter Sczudlo, vice president and general counsel of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, which funded the survey.