Survey: Pessimism growing in America
Anxiety about terrorism, crime and divisions over racial and political discrimination are contributing to a growing pessimism among Americans, according to a sweeping new survey of national values released Tuesday.
The latest sampling of American values on a wide range of issues found an 11 percentage point spike in the number of Americans who believe the country’s “best days are behind us” — 49 percent said they thought America’s best days were in the past compared with 38 percent just three years ago, according to 2015 American Values Survey, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute.
There was a partisan element to the pessimism: 58 percent of Republicans said America has peaked, compared to 30 percent of Democrats who agreed.
Primary concerns contributing to the dour mood include health care woes, terrorism and the rise of militant Islam. A majority of Americans (56 percent) think Islam beliefs are opposed to American values, a 9 percent increase from four years ago when Americans were more evenly divided, with 47 percent agreeing and 48 percent disagreeing.
A stagnant economy has deflated morale as the majority of Americans (72 percent) still believe the country is in recession — just a four-point dip from 2012 despite a rising GDP and falling nominal employment rates.
Only half of Americans reported some or a great deal of confidence in the federal government. Just 42 percent say the government looks out for them somewhat or very well, with seniors the only group where a majority expresses confidence that the government takes care of them.
A majority of Americans are also skeptical about another Bush or Clinton leading the country will lead to brighter days: 54 percent of Americans believe electing either Jeb Bush or Hillary Rodham Clinton next year would weaken the country, including 61 percent of the Republicans polled. The survey also found:
64 percent of black Americans believe mistreatment of people by police is a problem in their community, compared with just 17 percent of whites and 47 percent of Hispanics.
60 percent of black Americans believe racial tensions are an issue, compared with 27 percent of whites and 49 percent of Hispanics.
Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants and white mainstream Protestants report being far more pessimistic than other groups, with majorities believing that America’s best days are behind us. By contrast, majorities of American Catholics, black Protestants and religiously unaffiliated Americans all say the country’s best days are still to come.