Depressing poll reveals Americans think nation's best days are behind it

Those conducting an annual poll for The Atlantic/Aspen Institute were undoubtedly depressed when they asked Americans what they thought the world would look like in 2024. To say that Americans are pessimistic about the future would be an understatement.

Americans are more divided by race and class, expect the county to continue to decline, and believe Russia and China will present a greater threat. The Survey found that 49 percent of respondents believed the country was “more unified” in 2004 than it is today. Atlantic suggested that respondents were viewing the events of “fractious 2004 with rose-colored glasses,” but a recent Pew Research Center study also found that political polarization has increased dramatically in recent years.


50 percent of respondents say it will be difficult to afford a college education in 2024. 64 percent say the ease of finding jobs for their children will grow more difficult, though 60 percent also say that their kids’ lives will be better than theirs were. A plurality, 44 percent, believe Spanish will overtake English as the most widely spoken language in the U.S. in 10 years.

66 percent believe the gap between rich and poor will expand in the next decade and two-thirds say that money will become even “more of a force” in politics than it is today. 43 percent of respondents say the country is on the decline while only 30 percent say it is on the rise.


Respondents were, however, mostly optimistic about their personal circumstances over the next decade, and the survey’s findings changed dramatically when broken down by race, gender, and partisan affiliation.

Men are far more optimistic about the future and the opportunities available to their children than women, and Democrats are more optimistic about the economy than Republicans. Hispanics and African-Americans expressed more optimism about the future than did their white counterparts.

Only 34 percent of whites said the U.S. economy was headed on the “right track,” while 49 percent of blacks and 59 percent of Latinos agreed. 49 percent of African-Americans and 49 percent of Hispanics said they believed they would own a business in two years, while only 11 percent of whites shared that sentiment.