Tuesday, October 30, 2007

David Brooks: Hope springs eternal

Today's Brooks on "The Happiness Gap":

this election will be shaped by the gap within individual voters themselves — the gap between their private optimism and their public gloom....

....The polling — and I, for one, believe people are pretty sensible when it comes to evaluating their own lives — suggests that people are not personally miserable or downtrodden.

Their homes are bigger. They own more cars. They feel more affluent. In a segmented nation, they have built lifestyle niches for themselves where they feel optimistic and fulfilled.

Today's report from Stan Greenberg's polling shop (PDF):

In the focus groups, we handed people a page of
positive facts about the economy – and we nearly
had to rescue the moderator from the disbelieving
and angry participants. In fact, before this
exercise, we asked people to write down two
important things happening with the economy and
none of the 40 participants said anything
positive, with their negative notations centered
on the high “cost of living.” It is hard to
underestimate the power of a Democratic message
that simply recognizes the economic realities
that are very real for these voters. Indeed, the
very invisibility of their issues is for them
evidence that this economy works for the big
economic actors, not for average Americans: “this
applies to a bigger business and the wealthy”;
“it’s about big business, not the little guy”;
“CEOs at the top of corporations worrying more
about themselves instead of their companies”;
“yes, thank you”; “It is not for the average
family”; “this is probably true but not for us.”


These swing voters – about half non-college and
half college graduates – nearly attacked the
moderator because many are on the edge: “Over
half of Americans are what? Two paydays away from
living on the street”; “absolutely”; “that’s me.”
Nobody except the super-rich has seen salary
increases in years; not if you are in a “straight
regular job”; “people don’t make any raises,” and
if you are lucky, your spouse gets 2 percent in
some years. Some are working 2nd and 3rd jobs
because they “can’t make ends meet”; “I’ve never
known so many people to have two jobs or more
than I have lately.” Still, “they are cutting
back on everything.” They are struggling to fill
up the gas tank twice a week; and they fear a
visit to the hospital will wipe them out. They
are watching their own companies, even the large
ones, reduce and freeze hiring. They talk about
Wal-Mart almost wistfully – not with resentment
or anger – as a place where a lot of people
losing out on good jobs “have to put food on the
table. They have to pay the electric bill.” And
one woman interrupted the moderator trying to
move on, “I hope I don’t get to the point where
I’m that desperate where I have to go work at
Such an optimistic bunch. They even talk "wistfully" of having to work at Wal-Mart.


Anonymous said...

If possible, please consider posting a full RSS feed, with the full content of each entry, not just titles and abbreviated excerpts. Put ads in the feed if you want.

The Scanner said...


Sure. But how does one do that?