Thursday, January 14, 2016

More on Americans and their Country

I wrote a few weeks ago about the tendency of Americans to think that things are ok in their neighborhoods but terrible in the country as a whole. Now comes the most dramatic illustration of this that I have ever seen. The latest Gallup poll found that 85% of Americans are "satisfied with the way things are going in your personal life at this time", which is about as high as that number has ever been.

But only 20% are "satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time", which is well below average.

Looking closely at these graphs you can see that while the personal life numbers really don't change very much, the numbers for the United States jump all over the place. So it seems that people answer these questions in different ways. The "personal life" question inspired people to answer optimistically, with hope for themselves. The question about the whole country inspires a political answer which varies according to circumstance. Which makes me wonder: why do people change their minds so readily about how the country is doing? Why is there a national mood, and where does it come from? Obviously the economy is a big part of the story, but right now the economy is pretty good and the mood is still awful.

I keep thinking that this has something to do with the media, and with what politicians say. I think fear- and doom-mongers have a lot to answer for.

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