Davis column on Rutgers research finding Americans “unhappy, worried, and pessimistic”

In a column I examine recent survey research from Rutgers University. The research, “Unhappy, Worried, and Pessimistic:
Americans in the Aftermath of the Great Recession,” paints a bleak, if not unrealistic, view of American public opinion five years into the alleged economic recovery. From the column:

Report co-author Carl Van Horn says, “The slow, uneven, and painful recovery left Americans deeply pessimistic about the economy, their personal finances, and prospects for the next generation.”

It’s a comprehensive and sobering review, and worth reading for its insight into the mind of the American worker today. Here’s a quick overview from the press release.

The public paints an extremely negative picture of the American worker as unhappy, underpaid, highly stressed, and insecure about their jobs. Asked to describe the typical American worker, using a list of a dozen words or phrases, just 14 percent checked off happy at work and only 18 percent believe they are well paid. Two-thirds say that American workers are “not secure in their jobs” and “highly stressed.” Just one in five say the average American worker is well educated or innovative; just one in three checked off ambitious or highly skilled. And perhaps the most surprising, just one in three checked off that the average American worker is “better than workers in other countries.”

Yet, I think even this poll continues the seeds of an opinion and economic upturn.

It’s not insignificant that this deep into the flawed recovery, majorities are satisfied with their jobs and believe hard work pays off. That’s a solid foundation on which to build.

My piece concludes with the observation that public policies will make a difference by improving educational outcomes and nurturing entrepreneurial activity.