Monday, June 4, 2012

"Are you satisfied with the city or area where you live?" Nearly every American seems to like their hometown. Currently 85.7 percent are satisfied with their community. During the depths of the Great Recession this declined slightly to 83.9 percent, a difference within the statistical margin of error. In addition, the number of Americans thinking their hometown is getting better is the highest it's been since before the financial meltdown. According to Gallup:
The 58.7 percent of Americans who said their city or area where they live is "getting better" in April is the highest since the 59.0 percent measured in January 2008, and has surpassed pre-financial crisis levels.
This is the day-to-day experience that I sense on the street, and through routine social and professional interaction. The majority of Americans are happy with the world they experience at home and in their neighborhood. The America they experience through the lens of the media is another story entirely.

As Gallup reports:
Americans were much more satisfied with their local situation than they were with the national situation. In a May 3-6 Gallup poll, 24 percent of Americans were satisfied with the way things are going in the country, compared with the current 85.7 percent who say they are satisfied with their city or area. This reflects Americans' tendency to be more positive about local situations than about national conditions.
I think that in some sense the "local community" is the America you live in and directly experience and "the nation" is a sort of abstraction you hear about from others.

America's economy creates profound challenges for many people. In some cases the impact is dire. For the majority, our weak economy affects our sense of security, opportunity and mobility. But for the most part, Americans remain an optimistic and pragmatic people working to build communities and homes that provide them with great satisfaction and joy. Politics comes into play most intensely when people feel their communities and homes are under real threat. Despite the noise from the media, most Americans in 2012 do not feel that threat.

Nevertheless, in 2012, both presidential campaigns will work hard to convince us that this is a make or break year for the USA. Romney will try to tell us that Obama isn't up for the job and that the nation is in decline. Obama will remind us of all the right wing positions Romney adopted during the primary season to win over the extremists in the Republican base. While there are certainly important differences in both candidates, most of those differences will have little impact on the daily lives of Americans in their communities and in their homes.

There are major issues and crises confronting America and the world, but neither candidate is really speaking to those issues in this campaign. There is the issue of global sustainability and the need to transform our economy to one based on renewable resources. There is the issue of extreme poverty that persists in the shadow of the planet's growing wealth. There is the issue of the advancing technology of mass destruction and the threat posed by terrorists and dictators should they be armed with that technology. Many Americans sense the growing importance of these issues and they understand that our national leaders are doing little to address them. All of us respond to these issues in much the same way: We retreat to the lives we enjoy in our communities and homes and focus our attention on people and places that bring us joy and satisfaction.

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