The optimism gap

A Pew Research survey reignites an old debate — at least for me: Are we more glum about the future because the future is more bleak than it was in the Depression? Or are we more glum about the future because we are connected to more information that tells us we should be glum about the future?

During the Depression, the Pew survey says, only 29% thought business conditions would get worse. Fifty percent figured things would get better.

Compare that to an October 2010 survey. Only 35% expect things to get better by this October.

Even in the Reagan recession — when unemployment peaked at 11% — Americans were more hopeful than they are today.

  • Jeanne

    I wonder what the survey results are by age demographic. In my opinion, as a baby boomer, I feel much more glum about the future than I did when I was 25 years old. I thought my generation would be the one to make ‘peace, love, and understanding’ the social norm. Maybe there were too many pie-in-the-sky dreams that had no stable and sustainable foundation in a practical reality.

    On the economic front, if you would have told me 30 years ago that when I was in my mid-50s I would be 18 months without a job, I would have said you were crazy. I always thought an intelligent, creative, and responsible person would have gainful employment–regardless of their gender, race, or sexual orientation.

    The societal, political, and economic realities of this country are much harsher than I ever thought they could be or even become.