Although 56% of respondents describe themselves as “optimists,” the predictions for the future are pessimistic regarding economic, political and social issues; find out the reasons

A survey conducted across the United States territory by the Pew Research Center concluded that US citizens believe life conditions will be worse in 2050. Although 56% of the 2,500 adults surveyed by the study described themselves as “optimist with the future,” their predictions point out to economic, political and social problems for the world scenario in the next 30 years.

The most pessimistic prediction obtained by the survey is in income inequality. Of all respondents, 73% believe that the gap between the richest and the poorest will increase, whereas only 19% believe otherwise. And 44% of them predict that the living standard of an average family will get worse in three decades; only 20% believe in improvement. The scenario is also pessimist for political radicalization: 65% think that polarization will increase, and 26% think that it will narrow.

Another future concern relates to climate change. Putting together those very worried (41%) and those moderately worried (28%), 69% of US citizens predict problems in this regard. On the other hand, there is a strong belief that science and technology improvements will solve society and planet’s problems: 87% believe in their positive impact – more than half of respondents have faith that scientists will discover the cure for Alzheimer by 2050.

Pessimism with the country

The Pew Research Center survey also shows that US citizens are especially worried about the future of their country. One of the main concerns is the risk of new terrorist attacks: six out of ten respondents predict an event as bad as or worse than September 11. 

Most of the respondents (60%) see a future where their country will be less relevant in the international context. This also reflects in the confidence in their political leaders: 48% are very worried and 39% are moderately worried about their leaders not being up to future challenges.

Protestos nos EUA. Crédito: Vlad Tchompalov/Unsplash

Reasons for pessimism

The study authors state that “these grim predictions mirror, in part, the public’s sour mood about the current state of the country.” This happens because the rate of dissatisfaction with the current US society (70%) reached its highest level ever.

British magazine The Economist analyzes the research under the “negativity bias” thesis, documented by psychologist Steven Pinker. According to this hypothesis, news with negative headlines draw more public attention, and their world perception is that things are going south – even if their personal lives are improving.

Other hypothesis addressed by The Economist points to an economic crisis as motivation for frustrated predictions for the next 30 years. This happens because between 2006 and 2013 the family average income stagnated following two decades of intense growth. Subsequently, since 2014, the United States dropped from position 20 to 25 in the Social Progress Index – the only rich country that saw its general ranking go down in this period, due mostly to the decline in the healthcare and social inequality indexes.

Content published in July 19, 2019

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