Hmmm, Why Does This Sound Familiar? Part 1,293

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
CNBC poll results, from Steve Liesman report on April 4

A big theme in our ongoing reports from across the United States, and of my story in our March issue, is that Americans feel much better about the part of the country they can observe first-hand, than about the conditions elsewhere they hear or read about.

That is: According to almost everyone, America is going to hell. But according to most people, conditions in their city / region / family / company involve real challenges but are generally moving in the right direction.

There are lots of possible reasons for this divergence. For the moment I’m mainly emphasizing that it is real. Today CNBC had a poll showing another aspect of the split, the results of which are shown above. According to these results, 57% of Americans are “happy” or “satisfied” with their personal financial position, and only 21% are either “dissatisfied” or “angry.” But their view of the country as a whole is much darker.

No larger point for the moment beyond what I made in the piece itself. (As a reminder, one of those points was that Donald Trump, in specific, was whipping up anger and discontent in the country, at least as much as he was “expressing” it.) I’m interested in the recurrence of this pattern, of people being surprised that their own lives are proceeding as well as they are, considering the disaster they assume is happening everywhere else.

And yes, of course, I agree with everyone who is “angry” about the last question, on the “political situation in DC.” About that, grrrrr.

Previously in the Hmmmm series, please see this, this, and this.