WSJ/NBC Poll: The Death of American Optimism

Monday, 18 Aug 2014 07:57 AM

By Michael Kling

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Should we hold a funeral for American optimism?

In its most pessimistic reading ever, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll indicates that most Americans, 76 percent to be exact, are not sure their children's generation will be better than their own. Less than a quarter (21 percent) believe their children's generation will lead better lives than their own.

What's more, 71 percent think the country is on the wrong track, 60 percent believe the United States is in a state of decline, and 54 percent say the widening income gap is undermining opportunity.

Editor’s Note:
5 Shocking Reasons the Dow Will Hit 60,000

The pollsters say the survey reveals "a strong undercurrent of pessimism about the economy, the political system and the U.S. role in world affairs."

Pessimism cuts across incomes, race and regions, according to Washington Post opinion writer Dana Milbank who says he contacted the pollsters directly.

The wealthy are just as pessimistic as the poor are, and women are as dour as men are. Hispanics are only slightly more optimistic than white people are, and Westerners slightly more sunny than are those in other regions, Milbank notes.

The slow economic recovery probably caused the increased pessimism, but optimism has perplexingly failed to return despite the recent economic rebound, he points out. The perception that the American political system has failed might be causing the intransigent pessimism.

Americans are not confident politicians can handle even simple issues, Fred Yang, who helped run the survey, tells Milbank. "The unsettledness of the public is what is normal now. To me, this is less about economic reality than about our political system — our lack of confidence that our political leaders, regardless of party, are equipped to deal with the future."

Indeed, President Obama received his lowest approval rating ever, 40 percent, in the poll. Congressional Republicans received an even worse approval rating, just 19 percent, while Congressional Democrats had a 31 percent approval rating.

Despite falling unemployment and a booming stock market this year, Americans say they see just a modest increase in good economic news, according to a new Pew Research survey.

A majority of those polled (64 percent) say they're hearing "a mix of both good and bad news" about the economy, little changed during the last several months. In addition, 24 percent say they are hearing mostly bad news, down from 33 percent in February, and 10 percent say they are hearing mostly good economic news, a figure that's edged slight higher during the past six months.

Overall public perceptions about economic news have improved only modestly in recent years, according to Pew.

Editor’s Note: 5 Shocking Reasons the Dow Will Hit 60,000

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