Americans are in a gloomy mood—and we know it. Poll after poll has confirmed that large majorities think things are going in the wrong direction. But how can we right ourselves—and who can get it done?
In a Newsweek survey of 400 Americans conducted by Douglas E. Schoen LLC, we found predictable pessimism—76 percent think the country is on the wrong track, 70 percent think the country was better at solving its problems 25 years ago than it is today, 45.5 percent think job creation is our greatest problem but 73 percent think solving unemployment is our most difficult problem to fix. But we also found surprising approaches to reform.
For one thing, Americans don’t look to institutions to solve their problems, instead placing their greatest faith in the powers of involved citizens to improve the nation on their own. When they do turn to others, they trust small-business owners and CEOs, as well as state and local representatives, far more than they do Washington politicians. The good old-fashioned American entrepreneurial spirit—and suspicion of big government—apparently remains alive and well, even in tough times. A Washington that more accurately reflected public opinion might be more capable of finding common ground to solve the nation’s problems.