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softwareNerd

Pessimism about the Future

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According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans are about evenly divided on whether the country's best days are behind us or ahead of us. However, when one considers party-affiliation, the difference is pretty stark. About 75% of Republicans but 30% of Democrats think the country's best days are behind us. (The link has many more graphs, showing trends on more detailed questions.)

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So, are Republicans overly pessimistic, or are Democrats overly optimistic?

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Edited by softwareNerd

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Exactly what is a poll, and in detail how is it conducted?

I'm serious, I don't understand if they are in fact 'true', or reflect anything meaningful, perhaps because I am not sure if I understand what they are.

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Exactly what is a poll, and in detail how is it conducted?
Gallup makes phone calls for most of their polls, including this one. They make calls to random numbers across all 50 U.S. States. In this poll, they got responses from about 1,000 people they called.

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30 years ago Ronald Regan quipped about the "gloom and doomacrats". Regan was inspirational and looked forward, and would make everybody feel like the country was on the right track, ready to go forward into a future that would be full of technological marvels and prosperity.

That was the Republican party of 30 years ago. It has zero to do with Republicans today, where the threat of the End of the World or some variant is used in place of a principled defense of capitalism.

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post-1227-0-44788500-1357267762.png

The answer becomes obvious when considering the devolution of the United States into just another dime a dozen cradle to grave big government benefits dispensing European welfare state.

The moochers and looters are understandably ecstatic... while the producers are naturally less than thrilled.

Edited by moralist

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The good news is that most Democrats don't believe in global warming. If they did they'd be more pessimistic.

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I don't think the difference can be attributed to a substantive difference in expectations. I doubt Democrats are all that optimistic about the economy, for instance. It's just that Republicans and Democrats define "best" differently. When you say best, Republicans tend to think more of economic growth, Christian values and military might, Democrats tend to think more of egalitarianism, social freedoms and an altruistic, self-sacrificial foreign policy.

In terms of economic growth, the country's best years were in the 19th century, when it went from agrarian colony to the word's only economic and military superpower. In terms of social freedoms, the best years are indeed ahead of us.

Indeed, as the poll goes into details, most people seem to realize what's ahead (65% expect economic hardship, 82% higher taxes, 85% higher deficits, 75% expect foreign policy conflicts, 68% expect rising crime). Clearly, Democrats acknowledge that the country is going to be in trouble in all of the above areas. Otherwise, the overall numbers couldn't be that high. Since they nonetheless expect good things, clearly, they don't consider those aspects (prosperity, safety) the essence of "good".

Edited by Nicky

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The poll does make a huge error in not defining what the "best" means--although I very much doubt it means, "an era of increasing government spending on social programs" or some such. Clearly most people who aren't political wonks think of economic prosperity and technological innovation--things which will make them work less and have more play time.

It used to be that all Americans thought this way. Fox News has bled the optimism out of a large portion of them.

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--although I very much doubt it means, "an era of increasing government spending on social programs" or some such.

I don't doubt it means exactly that to the moochers... and even more to the phony compassion government looters who derive their economic security from servicing them.

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I can't remember who said this but there are two rules about humanity:

  1. Things always get better in the long run.

  2. People always think they are getting worse.

I think the Republicans are overly pessimistic, as are cultural conservatives the world over. For example, literalist Christians (mostly conservatives) believe that the end times are near so by definition the country's best days are in the past. I see Objectivists (many who are culturally conservative) being pessimistic about capitalism for example, which to me flies in the face of the evidence:

627px-Effective_tax_rates%2C_US_high-income.png

Edited by Kate87

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If they did, MS-NBC, Jon Stewart and CNN bled it from the rest.

The demographics of those audiences are more democratic, and thus are more like Regan Republicans of old.

Also, I don't think CNN has enough market share to count anymore, do they :-).

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I can't remember who said this but there are two rules about humanity:
  1. Things always get better in the long run.
  2. People always think they are getting worse.

Those are both true, by and large. Yet, there's are a couple of important caveats that one ought to remember.

* Firstly, what is the "long term" and why should it matter? For instance, I am around 50. So, what is the "long term" for me? To me, the next 20 years are what matter most. What about someone who was 20 during the Russian revolution. It would be little solace to tell that person that in the 1980's the Gulags will be shut down and bread lines would go away. Point is that there are some instance (e.g. North Korea in the 1960s even for North Korean just born at the time) where things will not get better in the meaningful long-term (i.e. meaningful in the context of his life).

* Secondly, even when things get better, very often it is not because of the things that people worry about, but in spite of them. People were right to be worried about Roosevelt's policies. Of course, because of industrialist, scientists, inventors and so on, things got better nevertheless. The same will likely be true in the case of the U.S. New discoveries (shale oil and gas), new inventions, and increased productivity will likely make the U.S. of 30 years from now richer per-capita than it is today. Despite this, all the concerns about the policies of today's U.S. voters are justified.

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But they aren't having the same end-effect as Fox, apparently...
I don't know. If Romney had won, the Dems might have been the ones down in the dumps. I remember much anxiety from Democrats when Bush won, with the usually talk about moving to Canada and so on.

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I don't know. If Romney had won, the Dems might have been the ones down in the dumps. I remember much anxiety from Democrats when Bush won, with the usually talk about moving to Canada and so on.

Good point. Too bad they didn't run the poll before (and then again after) the election...

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I see Objectivists (many who are culturally conservative) being pessimistic about capitalism for example, which to me flies in the face of the evidence:

No Objectivist is culturally conservative, just wanted to point that out.

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The large polling organizations regularly run polls on whether the country is on the right or the wrong track, which is similar to the question here. Real Clear Politics reports them as they emerge. The pessimistic majority has for years been much larger on the right track / wrong track question than on the ahead / behind one.

I've come across many Objectivists who are culturally conservative and consequently pessimistic, including Rand herself in later years.

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The large polling organizations regularly run polls on whether the country is on the right or the wrong track, which is similar to the question here. Real Clear Politics reports them as they emerge. The pessimistic majority has for years been much larger on the right track / wrong track question than on the ahead / behind one.

I've come across many Objectivists who are culturally conservative and consequently pessimistic, including Rand herself in later years.

How do you define culturally conservative?

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I can't remember who said this but there are two rules about humanity:

1. Things always get better in the long run.

2. People always think they are getting worse.

There is only one rule about humanity...

"...there are two races of men in the world, but only these two - the "race" of the decent man, and the " race" of the indecent man."

--Viktor Frankl

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The 'media' is not an accruate portrayer of what the philosphic trend is /or what that trend is becoming. It can be viewed as an accruate portrayer of what the current philosophic trend is(if philosophic trend is equivalent to what the producers of media content think are the ideas that most resonate with prospective consumers), eg what types of content will comport with what the advertisers see as their prospective audiences.

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