Political correctness

Trouble with the national debt, the growing income equality gap, a workforce threatened by automation, a terror attack as bad as 9/11, more environmental problems, less affordable healthcare, a weaker economy and families with a hard time making ends meet.

The U.S. of 2019, or even 2020?

Nope.

The U.S. of 2050.

That’s the result of a new Pew Research poll on what Americans think will happen 30 years in the future.

“They see a country in decline economically, politically and on the world stage. … Majorities of Americans foresee a country with a burgeoning national debt, a wider gap between the rich and the poor and a workforce threatened by automation. Majorities predict that the economy will be weaker, health care will be less affordable, the condition of the environment will be worse and older Americans will have a harder time making ends meet than they do now. Also predicted: a terrorist attack as bad as or worse than 9/11 sometime over the next 30 years,” Pew said Thursday.

“These grim predictions mirror, in part, the public’s sour mood about the current state of the country. The share of Americans who are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country – seven-in-ten in January of 2019 – is higher now than at any time in the past year.

“The view of the U.S. in 2050 that the public sees in its crystal ball includes major changes in the country’s political leadership. Nearly nine-in-ten predict that a woman will be elected president, and roughly two-thirds (65 percent) say the same about a Hispanic person.”

Among the changes expected is an upheaval in demographics, the survey found.

“The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that, by 2050, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other minorities will constitute a majority of the population. About four-in-ten Americans (42 percent) say this shift will be neither good nor bad for the country while 35 percent believe a majority-minority population will be a good thing, and 23 percent say it will be bad.”

The report said the public “views another projected change in the demographic contours of America more ominously. By 2050, people ages 65 and older are predicted to outnumber those younger than 18, a change that a 56 percent majority of all adults say will be bad for the country.”

The federal government and the coming elected officials got a big no-confidence vote.

“More than eight-in-ten say they are worried about the way the government in Washington works, including 49 percent who are very worried. A similar share worries about the ability of political leaders to solve the nation’s biggest problems, with 48 percent saying they are very worried about this. And, when asked what impact the federal government will have on finding solutions to the country’s future problems, more say Washington will have a negative impact than a positive one (55 percent vs. 44 percent).”

Most say science and technology will help solve problems, and nearly as many give credit to education.

Even so, 77 percent worry about the “ability of public schools to provide a quality education to tomorrow’s students, and more expect the quality of these schools to get worse, not better, by 2050.”

Pew noted the “partisan polarization” of today is expected to remain.

“Across a range of issues, the difference between partisans is not merely apparent, but conspicuously large. Despite shared concern about the future quality of the nation’s public schools, about two-thirds of Democrats and those who lean Democratic (66 percent), but only 36 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners, rate increased spending on education as a top federal government priority,” Pew explained.

“Partisan differences are particularly large on issues related to the environment. About six-in-ten Democrats (61 percent) but only 15 percent of Republicans say they are very worried about climate change. An even larger share of Democrats (70 percent) predict the condition of the environment will get worse in the next 30 years, while 43 percent of Republicans agree.”

Where is there agreement?

“It is perhaps fitting that, while the two parties hold similar views on a number of issues, one area of agreement stands out: Majorities of both parties agree that the country will be more politically divided in 2050 than it is today,” the report said.

The nationally representative survey of 2,524 adults was conducted online Dec. 11-23, 2018, using Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel.

Other findings are the expectation that older adults will be less prepared financially for retirement, adults younger than 50 doubt Social Security will be around for them, and the standard of living for families will plunge.

Overall, barely half (56 percent) of all adults say they are either very optimistic or somewhat optimistic about the U.S. in 2050, Pew found.

On religion, Pew noted: “The public is divided over whether religion will become less important over the next 30 years than it is now. Half say religion will lose importance, while 42 percent say it will remain unchanged (respondents were not given the option of saying religion will be more important).”

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