Are we becoming a nation of pessimists?

But America’s black mood is even darker than it already seems. For years most Americans have thought the economy bad, politics awful and the national trajectory skewed hard to doom and destruction. The startling difference in the NBC-Esquire survey is that most Americans now also think life is going poorly in their own backyard. The survey didn’t directly ask about happiness, but when evaluating their own lives more than 85 percent of people in the center thought they were stuck, “falling backward” or “slipping behind.”

Two out of three of these people believe that the next generation has it even worse, and that young people in general are facing vicious headwinds like nothing their parents experienced.

The cost of all this sour feeling is a cascading sense that the old ways of America have failed, say the pollsters. It’s why most of the new American center says affirmative action has to go, and unions are a vestige of the past, and the Bible and U.S. Constitution could be jettisoned without harm as the nation searches for a way to right itself.

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