American public opinion in 2016.

Most Americans thought that the country is in trouble.[1]  Better than four fifths (82 percent) said that the people in Washington don’t care about ordinary people; more than three-quarters (77 percent) saw the country as deeply divided over core values; more than three-quarters (76 percent) disapproved of Congress; almost three-quarters (74 percent) believed that the country is headed in the wrong direction; better than two-thirds (70 percent) thought that the presidential election brought out the worst in people; two-thirds thought that the tax system favors the wealthy; almost two-thirds (63 percent) thought that race relations are poor and over half (55 percent) expect them to get worse; and half (50 percent) thought that America’s best days had passed.

All those are opinions.  Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but no one is entitled to his own facts.  Therefore, it has alarmed some people that many Trump voters believe things that are demonstrably not true.  Two-thirds of Trump voters believe that unemployment has increased during President Obama’s two terms; 60 percent believe that millions of illegal aliens voted I the election; and 40 percent believe that Trump won the popular vote.[2]

So, liberals are right to tout the achievement of the Obama administration in the area of employment?  Well, not exactly.  Almost all (94 percent) of the new 10 million jobs created from 2005 to 2015 are not traditional jobs.  They were either temporary jobs or contract-based jobs.[3]  In 2012, Hostess sold its snack-cake brands to a private equity firm.  Those brands then employed 8,000 people.  The investors paid $186 million for the troubled firm.  In 2016, the investors sold the revived firm for $2.3 billion.  At this point, Hostess employed only 1,200 people.[4]  Perhaps this explains some of the belief that the economic recovery is a fraud.

Under these circumstances, it should surprise no one that one-sixth (so, 16+ percent) of Americans are taking medication for depression, anxiety, or some other psychiatric ill.[5]  It would probably be higher if doctors weren’t so starchy.  Not everyone can get or thinks to ask for a script.  Two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans deal with stress by self-medicating with comfort foods.  Astonishingly for me, a mere 15 percent name pizza as their drug of choice.  In any event, two-thirds (66 percent) claim that they feel no guilt about bellying-up to the pasta bar.  As a result, in part, of consuming more in dark times, better than a third (36 percent) of Americans are merely overweight, while better than an additional quarter (28 percent) are actually obese.[6]  Must have been a lot of stress over the years.

Perhaps the solution to these problems would be to ignore the news.  In spite of their gloom over the state of the union, most Americans take a sunnier view of their own circumstances.  Over half (51 percent) think that the economy is improving; almost two-thirds (64 percent) are happy with their financial situation; better than three-quarters (77 percent) are happy with their jobs (or perhaps just happy to have one); and the vast majority (84 percent) are happy with their family and friends.  (Christmas should take care of that.)  So, apparently, it is awareness of the difficulties and deficiencies of others that inspires the pessimism about larger matters.  Empathy kills.

[1] “Poll Watch: The way we were in 2016,” The Week, 23 December/30 December 2016, p. 24.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 23 December/30 December 2016, p. 17.

[3] “The bottom line,” The Week, 23 December/30 December 2016, p. 46.

[4] “The bottom line,” The Week, 23 December/30 December 2016, p. 46.

[5] “Noted,” The Week, 23 December/30 December 2016, p. 16.

[6] “Poll Watch: The way we were in 2016,” The Week, 23 December/30 December 2016, p. 24.

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