The Public Sees America in Decline: Why?

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Many Americans no longer see America as a thriving nation with a bright future ahead of it. A major new poll by Pew Research shows just the opposite. America is in decline, many Americans believe, and several reasons contribute to that opinion, the research shows.

Political divisions across that nation are not the main reason for the decline, according to those queried. American concerns revolve around the fact that the nation is plagued by income inequality. The United States is one of the countries with the widest gap between the rich and the poor.

The negative view of America from outside the country is another factor. The extent to which jobs will be eliminated by automation is another anxiety. So is the nation’s debt. Very high on the list is the deterioration of the environment. And then there is the affordability of health care. Finally, concerns about a terrorist event as bad or worse than 9/11 underpin more anxiety.

On several of the most visible issues, there are sharp divides between positive and negative attitudes when Americans consider what the country will be like in 30 years. Those who think America’s “stature is declining on the world state” were 61%. Only 31% believe it is growing. Respondents who believe the gap between “haves and have nots” will worsen totaled 73%. Those who think the gap will fall came to only 19%.

On the issue of “political polarization,” those who think it will be worse 30 years out came to 65%. Only 26% thought the problem will get better. Retirement was another major anxiety. Some 72% believe older Americans will be less prepared for retirement. Nearly four in 10 believe that by the time they retire, there will be no Social Security benefits.

Pew experts summed up most of the concerns in a brief statement: “Majorities predict that the economy will be weaker, health care will be less affordable, the condition of the environment will be worse, and older Americans will have a harder time making ends meet than they do now. Also predicted: a terrorist attack as bad as or worse than 9/11 sometime over the next 30 years.”

There were some extremely positive takeaways from the research, a demonstration that Americans remain optimistic in several areas. Almost 90% believe there will be a woman president by 2050. Nearly two-thirds think there will be a Hispanic president. And over half believe that there will be a cure for Alzheimer’s, one of the most rapidly growing and devastating health problems in the United States. The rates at which this disease ravages people show up in a study of how many people die from Alzheimer’s in every state.

Despite the positives, Pew researchers offered conclusions that were downbeat for the most part. Many Americans believe the United States will be a worse place to live in 30 years. And most feel they have very solid reasons to back their opinions.

Pew reported its methodology for the study: “Data in this report are drawn from the panel wave conducted Dec. 11 to Dec. 23, 2018. A stratified random sample of 3,397 panelists was selected from the full panel. Of these, 2,524 panelists responded for a response rate of 74%.”


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