Remember when Americans were optimistic no matter what?

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It is the very essence of the American Dream: an irrepressible confidence that our children will live better than we do. And now it is gone.

DeclineOfAmericanOptimismIt has been slipping for some time, really, but a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll this month put an exclamation point on Americans’ lost optimism. When asked if “life for our children’s generation will be better than it has been for us,” fully 76 percent said they do not have such confidence. Only 21 percent did. That was the worst ever recorded in the poll; in 2001, 49 percent were confident and 43 percent not. …

The young are relatively less pessimistic than the old (64 percent to 86 percent) but still plenty discouraged in absolute terms. Republicans (88 percent) were more dour than Democrats (61 percent), just as Democrats were more dour than Republicans when the question was asked in 2006 (56 percent to 71 percent) during a similar stage in George W. Bush’s presidency.

In other words, the gloom goes beyond wealth, gender, race, region, age and ideology. This fractious nation is united by one thing: lost faith in the United States.

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