Well, it certainly wasn't the best of times. Political division and high unemployment made for a sour state of affairs and an angry, fearful populace in 2010, according to a number of polls. But, while we were increasingly divided politically, we were also increasingly connected by technology, from social networking sites to text messages. And despite our frustration with the federal government and full body scanners, we found comfort in food (of course) and a former "Golden Girl." Here's a data snapshot:
What is our state of mind?
• In October, only 21% of Americans were satisfied with the way things were going in the U.S., the lowest level in three decades of tracking (Gallup).
• A record high 46% say they are "uncertain" about the U.S. system of government and how it’s working, while 23% believe the U.S. used to be the greatest country in the world "but isn’t anymore" (ABC News/Yahoo).
• 47% say America’s best days are in the past (Rasmussen), and 53% believe the U.S. will play a less important role in the world in 40 years (Pew).
• Even faith in capitalism has eroded in the wake of the financial crisis, with 52% viewing it positively and 37% registering a negative view (Gallup).
• But as long as you call it "free enterprise," more than 7 in 10 Americans still support it (U.S. Chamber of Commerce).
What are we so mad about?
Pretty much everything.
• 23% say they’re "angry" about illegal immigration (CNN/Opinion Research Corp.).
• 27% believe American society is "unfair and discriminatory" (Rasmussen).
• 69% have a negative view of banks and financial institutions (Pew).
• 53% think free-trade agreements have hurt the country (The Wall Street Journal/NBC).
• 18% are angry at the federal government (CBS News).
• And just about everybody—86%—thinks the government is "broken" (CNN/Opinion Research Corp.).
• Only 3% say they’re "enthusiastic" about Washington, while 55% are either "disappointed" or "don’t care much" about the results of the midterm election (CBS News).
What are we afraid of?
In short, terrorism, privacy invasions, staying afloat, and ghosts.
• 72% say the world is becoming "more dangerous" for Americans (Public Agenda), and only 44% have confidence in the government’s ability to prevent terrorist attacks (ABC News/The Washington Post).
• 38% of likely voters believe the legal system concerns itself too much with individual rights at the expense of security (Rasmussen), while 81% support the use of full-body scanners to make air travel safer (CBS News).
• 42% of affluent investors are worried about "maintaining their family’s standard of living" (Merrill Lynch).
• 37% of American adults believe in ghosts (Zogby Interactive).
What do we do for fun?
Unsurprisingly, eating remains popular, but digital distractions are increasingly time-consuming.
• 79% of adults say they like to cook, and 30% say they love it (Harris Poll).
• 86% of 18- to 29-year-old Internet users visit social-networking sites, while for Internet users 50 and older, social networking nearly doubled in the past year to 42%; 85% of experts expect to look back in 2020 and view the Internet as "a positive force on my social world" (Pew).
• 57% of adults say they feel more connected to people thanks to social networks (Harris Poll).
• Among adults 18 to 24, 18% send or receive more than 200 texts per day, and 47% of all texting adults say they’ve sent or read a text while driving, as have 34% of 16- to 17-year-old texters. 65% of adults have slept with a cell phone next to their bed, and 91% feel safer having one (Pew).
• 76% enjoy watching 88-year-old actress Betty White, with 55% rating her "very favorably." Only 1%, though, would like to see the media pay more attention to celebrities (Rasmussen).
What do we look forward to?
A new job with a little space-travel on the side.
• 34% look forward to changing jobs when the economy improves (Deloitte Ethics & Workplace Survey).
• In the next four decades, 71% believe cancer will be cured, while 66% believe artificial limbs will outperform real ones, 68% think race relations will improve, and 53% say ordinary people will travel in space (Pew).
• On the downside, 60% believe there will be no Social Security check waiting for them when they retire (Gallup).