How are we feeling?
Not great, but we're getting better. In October, 42% of Americans said the country was heading in the "right direction," the highest number in almost three years (ABC News/The Washington Post), and 61% thought the economy was either in recovery or would be soon (Pew Research Center). 56% are optimistic that President Obama will be able to reduce unemployment in his second term, 55% say he'll improve the health-care system, and 54% think he'll oversee a strong economic recovery (USA Today/Gallup). Not everyone is so confident about the nation's future. 31% say the challenges facing the country are so serious that America might not be able to overcome them (Allstate/National Journal), 40% worry that the U.S. is "evolving into a socialist state" (Investors Business Daily/TIPP), and 57% think America is on the decline as a civilization (Fox News).
What's bugging us?
Partisan politics. 21% say President Obama "makes them feel angry" (Pew Research Center); 49% of Republicans think ACORN stole the election, even though the community-organizing group closed in 2010 (Public Policy Polling). 85% believe the two parties should compromise some of their positions to break the deadlock in Washington (The New York Times/CBS News). But when it comes to specific policy disputes, few Americans want to meet halfway. Just 41% would compromise on the budget deficit, while only 34% would reach across the aisle on immigration and 33% on health-care reform (Goldfarb Center/Survey USA).
How has society changed?
We're increasingly gay-friendly. 53% approve of same-sex marriage, an all-time high; 61% say gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children, and 91% of gays and lesbians report that their communities have become more accepting of their sexuality in recent years (USA Today/Gallup). Attitudes on recreational drugs are also changing. 82% believe the U.S. is losing the war on drugs (Rasmussen), and 58% support the legalization of marijuana (Public Policy Polling).
Do we have any other vices?
Our smartphones. 50% of Americans now own one of these gadgets (Nielsen), and 58% of that group check it at least once every hour, often at inappropriate times. 30% have used their phones during a meal with others, 39% while in the bathroom, and 9% during a religious service (Harris Interactive). Given the choice, 21% would rather give up sex than their cellphones (Ipsos). We're also glued to social media, with Internet users spending more than 2 billion hours a month on sites like Facebook and Twitter, up 37% from 2011 (Nielsen). Not all social media users are very social, though. 18% say they've blocked, unfriended, or hidden a fellow user because of offensive political postings (Pew Research Center).
What are we scared of?
Just about everything. 66% are concerned about global warming (Quinnipiac); 35% fear a loss of privacy if the police begin using unmanned aerial drones (AP); 59% are worried about becoming a victim of identity theft (Unisys); and 65% believe another 9/11-style attack is likely in the next decade (Rasmussen). That could explain why 30% of Americans are willing to endure a body cavity search in order to fly on a commercial airliner and 35% are prepared to wear electric shock bracelets that would allow airport officials to incapacitate potential terrorists (Harris Interactive). 12% of Americans also believed the Mayan apocalypse would end the world on Dec. 21 (Ipsos/Reuters). If the apocalypse did occur, 17% of men said they'd like to spend their final moments with Jennifer Aniston, while 23% of women would take comfort in the arms of George Clooney (National Geographic Channel).
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
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