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Americans look 30 years into the future and see a country in economic, political and global decline. While a slim majority of the public (56%) say they are somewhat optimistic about America’s future, when attention is focused on specific issues, hope gives way to skepticism.
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A new survey by the Pew Research Center focuses on how Americans think the United States will look in 2050.
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Many predict that the economy will weaken, health care will become less expensive, the environment will deteriorate, and older Americans will have a harder time making ends meet. Also predicted: In the next 30 years, there will be a terrorist attack as bad or worse than 9/11.
These dire predictions partly reflect the public’s gloomy mood about the current state of the country. The percentage of Americans who are dissatisfied with their jobs in the country — seven in ten in January 2019 — is now higher than at any time last year.
The US vision for 2050, which the public will see in their crystal ball, includes a major change in the country’s political leadership. About nine out of ten predict that the president will be a woman, and almost two-thirds (65%) think the same about a Spanish man. And of course, optimistically, more than half expect to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease by 2050.
The public also has a more positive, or at least optimistic, view of the current demographic trends shaping the country’s future. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2050, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and other minorities will make up the majority of the population. About four in ten Americans (42%) say the change would be neither good nor bad for the country, while 35% think a majority minority would be a good thing and 23% say it would be bad.
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These views vary greatly by race and ethnicity. Whites are almost twice as likely to view the change negatively (28% of whites compared to 13% of blacks and 12% of Hispanics). And when asked about the consequences of an increasingly diverse America, nearly half (46%) of whites, but only a quarter of Hispanics and 18% of blacks believe that a majority-minority country upholds American traditions and values. They say there will be injuries. .
Another predictable shift in American demographics seems even more ominous to the public. By 2050, 56 percent of all adults are expected to outnumber those under 18, a change that would be bad for the country.
Given these challenges and threats, most Americans have little confidence that the federal government and its elected officials are prepared to meet the major challenges ahead. More than eight in 10 say they are concerned about how government is doing in Washington, including 49 percent who say they are very concerned. A similar proportion are concerned about the ability of political leaders to solve the country’s biggest problems, with 48% saying they are very concerned. When asked how the federal government will influence the country’s future solutions, Washington has more of a negative than a positive influence (55% to 44%).
Instead, the vast majority of Americans look to science and technology and the education system to solve the problems of the future: 87% say science and technology play a very or somewhat positive role in solving the country’s problems. influence, and nearly three-quarters say the same about public K-12 schools (77%) and colleges and universities (74%). Still, nearly three-quarters (77%) worry that public schools will be able to provide a quality education for tomorrow’s students, while others expect the quality of those schools to deteriorate, not improve, by 2050, with just one-third. (34%) of countries rate research spending as a top policy priority.
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Many of these and other findings are based on deep divisions in American life along traditional lines such as race, age, and education. But among the most striking differences found in this survey are between Republicans and Democrats. The magnitude and frequency of these differences highlight the extent to which party polarization reflects not only the current political climate, but also views about the future.
The differences between the parties on many issues are not only clear, but apparently large. Despite widespread concern about the future quality of the nation’s public schools, nearly two-thirds of Democrats and 66% of Democrats, but only 36% of Republicans and Republicans, see education as a top priority for the federal government. costs per Six in ten Democrats (58%), but only 19% of Republicans say the media will have a positive impact on the country’s future problems. Four in ten (42%) Democrats say a majority non-white population strengthens American traditions and values, compared to just 13% of Republicans. Similarly, six-in-ten (61%) Democrats, but only one-third of Republicans, think more interracial marriage is good for society. Party gaps in future preferences reflect similar differences in current policy preferences. Recent studies have shown that in recent decades, Republicans and Democrats have diverged significantly in their views on what the priorities of Congress and the president should be.
Party differences are particularly large on environmental issues. Six in ten Democrats (61%) but only 15% of Republicans say they are very concerned about climate change. Even more Democrats (70%) predict the environment will deteriorate over the next 30 years, while 43% of Republicans agree.
Their priorities for the future are also often very different. Among all adults, increased spending on health care and education tops the list of policies the federal government believes it should adopt to improve the quality of life for future generations. Still, three top Republican priorities — reducing the number of undocumented immigrants, reducing the national debt and avoiding tax increases — are not among Democrats’ top five priorities.
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By contrast, three of the five Democratic priorities — combating climate change, closing the gap between rich and poor, and increasing spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — are not on the Republican Party’s top five list. Providing high-quality health care and increasing spending on education are priorities for each party, but a greater share of Democrats than Republicans see these issues as top priorities.
While the two parties hold similar positions on many issues, one area of agreement may stand out: Most people in both parties believe the country will be more politically divided in 2050 than it is today. agrees to leave.
A nationally representative survey of 2,524 adults was conducted online between December 11 and 23, 2018, using the Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel.
Nearly seven in ten Americans (72 percent) expect older adults to be less financially prepared for retirement in 2050 than they are today. An even larger proportion (83%) predict that most people will need to work past the age of 70 in order to retire. The public’s predictions for the future of the Social Security system are dire.
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Among those not yet retired, 42% expect to receive no Social Security benefits when they leave the workforce, and another 42% expect benefits to be reduced starting today.
Adults under 50 are especially skeptical that Social Security will be in place when they leave the workforce: 48% expect to receive no Social Security benefits in retirement. In contrast, 28 percent of people aged 50 and over are equally pessimistic. But even among this older group, only about a quarter (23%) expect to receive welfare benefits at current levels. These findings reflect lingering doubts — especially among young adults — about the long-term solvency of the Social Security system.
Although they question the long-term financial sustainability of the Social Security system, most Americans do not want to cut benefits. A quarter believe that future cuts to pensioners’ benefits will be necessary to fund the system, while almost three times as many believe that benefits should be cut anyway.
More than four in ten Americans (44%) predict that the standard of living for the average family will get worse, not better, over the next 30 years. Almost twice as many (20%) of these households expect their finances to be better in the future than they are today; 35% predict that there will be no real change.
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As for children’s prospects, half of them say that the standard of living for children in 30 years will be worse than today, while 42 percent predict that it will be better. More men
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