Partisan politics and taxes made us despair, but we found some joy in pizza and TV.
The way we were in 2016
How are we feeling?
Very conflicted. 64% of Americans are happy with their financial situation, 77% with their career, and 84% with their family and friends (Associated Press/GfK). 51% also think the economy is improving, up from 39% a year ago (Gallup). Yet we’re still very worried. 74% say the country is headed in the wrong direction, 50% think the nation’s best days have passed (Public Religion Research Institute), and a record 77% say Americans are greatly divided when it comes to the most important values (Gallup). The often-nasty presidential contest added to our pessimism. 70% thought the election brought out the worst in people, and 7% lost or terminated a friendship because of political arguments (Monmouth University). Still, 60% say the campaign was more “interesting” than past elections (HuffPost/YouGov).
Whom do we blame for America’s problems?
The folks in Washington. 82% say that the people running the country don’t care about ordinary Americans (Harris); 76% have an unfavorable opinion of Congress, 47% of the Supreme Court (Gallup). President Obama gets better reviews: 55% say he’s been a “good” or “great” president. But only 21% think Obama’s policies helped their personal financial situation, while 33% think they actively hurt their finances (Quinnipiac). One of the big complaints is the tax code. 67% think the tax system favors the wealthy, and 39% say Uncle Sam takes too much from their paycheck (Huff Post/YouGov). If it meant they never had to send another penny to the Internal Revenue Service, 27% would get the letters “IRS” tattooed on their body, while 8% would name their first-born child “Taxes” (WalletHub).
How do we relax?
By staring at a screen. 70% regularly engage in marathon TVwatching sessions, bingeing an average of five episodes of a show in a single sitting (Deloitte). We also gorge on food. 67% eat for comfort when they’re feeling stressed, with 15% saying pizza is their preferred pick-me-up while 7% scarf ice cream and 5% mac and cheese. 66% say they don’t feel guilty after overindulging (Harris), but maybe a little regret wouldn’t be so bad: A record 28% of American adults are now obese, and another 36% are overweight (Gallup).
How has society changed?
We’re increasingly open-minded. A record 62% now support same-sex marriage, 72% favor passing laws to protect lesbian, gay, and transgender people from discrimination (Public Religion Research Institute), and 60% think marijuana should be legalized (Gallup). But the past year has people concerned we’re slipping backward. 63% believe race relations in the U.S. are in bad shape, the highest number since the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and 55% think things are only going to get worse (The Washington Post/ABC News). The growing role of technology in our lives is also a cause of concern. 49% believe our smartphones and other gadgets are making us dumb, and 54% say they make us less connected to our friends and family (Marist). They could be on to something. 60% wish their family members would put down their devices more often, but 37% say it’s unrealistic to expect people to unplug from technology for more than a few hours at a time (Harris).
What are we scared of?
Plenty. 80% fear that terrorists will soon launch a major attack on U.S. soil (Fox News). 39% fear the government will try to take away their guns and ammunition. 8% are phobic of clowns (Chapman University). Many feel panicky about what our next president might do in office. 46% think Donald Trump will drop a nuclear bomb, including 22% of his own supporters, and 54% say he could cause the U.S. to default on its debt (SurveyMonkey). Faced with all these troubles, some of us just want out. 21% would be inclined to volunteer for a mission to Mars, even if there was a high risk of dying en route (Ipsos).