Friday, January 04, 2013

Americans Are Pessimistic Going Into 2013

Normally, most people would be fairly optimistic as we go into a new year -- optimistic that the new year would be better. But if these USA Today/Gallup Poll results are to be believed, that is not the case this time. The poll, taken between December 14th and 17th (2012) of a random national sample of 1,025 adults, shows that there are a lot of people who have a very pessimistic view of what the future holds for the United States.

Perhaps the most troubling view is that at least half of all Americans think that America's best days are behind us. That is the view of not only the public in general, but also most Republicans and a majority of Independents. It is only the Democrats that envision a bright future for this country. I can understand the Republican attitude -- after all, they just lost an election and demographics tend to show that many happen fairly regularly in the future. But that view being held by a majority of Independents is disappointing. Here are the numbers on this question:


General public
ahead of us...............47%
behind us...............50%

ahead of us...............24%
behind us...............74%

ahead of us...............43%
behind us...............55%

ahead of us...............69%
behind us...............28%

There were a couple of fairly optimistic notes among the questions asked in the poll. By an 11 point margin, most people think that unemployment will decrease in the coming year rather than increase. And by a 15 point margin, Americans believe that inflation will be controlled pretty well and prices will rise at a reasonable rate rather than a high rate.

But that is as far as the optimism goes. On all the other poll questions, most Americans think 2013 will be an even worse year than 2012 was.  By a 32 point margin, people think this year will bring more economic difficulty than economic prosperity. By a whopping 69 point, most people believe taxes will rise this year instead of falling (and they have already been proved right on this, since the payroll tax has gone up from 4.2% to 6.2%). By a 72 point margin, people think there will continue to be a substantial federal deficit rather than a generally balanced budget. But a 52 point margin, people believe this will be a year of international discord rather than a peaceful year internationally. And a 20 point majority believes the power of the United States will decline internationally rather than increase this year.

And finally, there is a question where the view of the vast majority seems to be in conflict with reality. A full 40 point majority of Americans think crime will rise significantly in 2013. The truth is that crime, especially violent crime, has been decreasing for years now (according to FBI statistics) -- and there is no reason to believe that will change in 2013. I think the view of most people is skewed by watching television news, where the policy remains "if it bleeds, it leads". This has created a perception that crime is rampant in the United States, and that is just not true.

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