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36 compelling survey results from 2012
21 percent of Americans would rather give up sex than their cellphones. And 12 percent of us believed the Mayan apocalypse would end the world
 
Newlyweds walk past cheering well-wishers after getting married in Seattle: 53 percent of Americans approve of same-sex marriage.
Newlyweds walk past cheering well-wishers after getting married in Seattle: 53 percent of Americans approve of same-sex marriage. AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

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).

 

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