State of the Nation

*Any statements in this issue of the Watch which are not sourced are mine and identified by “WW”. And for the first time WW will start using the Real Clear Politics average now and then.

35.3% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction while 56.3 say it is on the wrong track. [Real Clear Politics, 1/28-3/1]

According to a Fox News poll, 36% of Americans are satisfied with the direction of the country while 63% are dissatisfied. This is the highest satisfaction level since November 2016 when 37% expressed their satisfaction. By November 2017, the satisfaction level had fallen to 21%. These findings indicate a significant jump in the public satisfaction level over the last four months.

67% of Republicans are satisfied with the direction of the country. This is the highest level of satisfaction since prior to January 2016. On the other hand, only 13% of Democrats are satisfied and 31% of Independents are satisfied.

63% of Americans are optimistic about the U.S. economy, 38% think the job situation in their area is getting better. In terms of their personal financial situation, 23% say they are getting ahead and 24% say they are falling behind. Folks are equally divided–29% Yes/28% No–on whether they have more money in their pockets as compared to a year ago. [Fox News, 2/13/18]

34% of Americans are satisfied with the size and power of the federal government while 38% are satisfied with how well the U.S. government works.
[Gallup, 2/14/18 and 2/28/18]


The official BLS seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February 2017 is 4.1%, this is identical to the October and November numbers and the lowest it has been since January 2001 when the rate was 3.9%.

The unemployment rate for African Americans in the 4th quarter of 2017 was 7.0% and the white unemployment rate was 3.4%. [BLS]
If one takes into account the total number of unemployed + those marginally attached to the labor force + those working part-time who want full-time work, the unemployment rate for February 2018 is 8.2%. [BLS data is based on those 16 years of age and older.]

In February 2018, initial claims for unemployment benefits hit the lowest level since December 1969. [WSJ, 3/2/18]

SEC regulations now require that companies report the pay of their chief executives and the pay of their median employee. A recent survey of 356 public companies found that the CEO-to-median pay ratio was 140 to 1. Companies above $15 billion in annual sales had a ratio of 263 to 1. Companies with 43,000 or more employees had a ratio of 318 to 1. So far, the information for roughly 20 companies has been released. Honeywell reported a ratio of 333 to 1 and Teva Pharmaceuticals disclosed a ratio of 302 to l. [WP, 2/24/18]

The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified 954 organizations which it describes as a “hate” groups. The number of organizations fitting that definition has grown from 917 groups in 2016 and 892 groups in 2016.

The number of groups defined as neo-Nazi groups has grown from 99 to 121, the number of anti-Muslim groups grew from 101 to 114 groups, and the number of anti-immigrant groups grew from 14 – 22. Two “men’s rights” groups have been added to the lists for the first time. [WP, 2/22/18]

“Total U.S. household debt hit an all-time high of $13.15 trillion at the end of 2017. Mortgage debt is at $8.88 trillion.” [FiveThirtyEight newsletter, 2/15/18]

The American Customer Satisfaction Index finds the following levels of satisfaction with the federal government. (These are not measures of political satisfaction per se.) Citizen satisfaction is up by 2.5% year to year.

Federal Departments 2017

Justice 81%
Interior 78%
Defense 76%
Commerce 75%
State 74%
DHS 72%
Federal Govt 69.7%
Agriculture 69%
HHS 69%
Soc Sec Admin 69%
Veterans Affairs 67%
Treasury 67%
HUD 60%

About Guns

There are between 270 million and 310 million guns in the United States. (PEW Research, 2013)

Several surveys asked the following questions about gun ownership. Their findings are noted below.

What is the percentage of people who live in households with guns?
Gallup and Pew 42%
General Social Survey 32%

What percentage of Americans personally own guns?
Pew 30%
Gallup 29%
GSS 21%

What percentage of gun owners own hand guns?
GSS and PEW 70+%

What percentage of gun owners own shotguns?
GSS 63%
Pew 54%

What percentage of Republicans and Democrats own guns?
Democrats 16%
Republicans 41%

67% of gun owners say their ownership of guns is for protection. 68% say they own guns for hunting or sport shooting.

When asked to rank the essential elements of freedom, U.S. adults responded as follows:

  Non-gun owners Gun owners
Freedom of Speech 92% 94%
Right to vote 89% 92%
Right to privacy 86% 89%
Freedom of religion 85% 88%
Right to own guns 35% 74%

Attitudes toward various gun proposals

The numbers indicate “strongly or somewhat favor”.

  Non-gun owners Gun owners
Creating a federal data base to track gun sales 80% 54%
Background checks for private sales and at gun shows 87% 77%
Allowing concealed carry in more places 37% 67%
Banning assault-style weapons 77% 48%
Banning high capacity magazines 74% 44%

The percentage of people who say each of the following contributes “a great deal or a fair amount” to gun violence in the country today.

  Non-gun owners Gun owners
The ease with which people can illegally obtain guns 87% 83%
The ease with which people can legally obtain guns 67% 44%
Family instability 77% 66%
Lack of economic opportunity 68% 59%

19% of U.S. gun owners say they belong to the National Rifle Association.

44% say the NRA has too much influence over gun legislation while 40% say it has the right amount of influence and 15% say the NRA has too little influence.

44% of Americans say they personally know someone who has been shot either accidentally or intentionally.

57% of black adults are more likely to know someone who has been shot as compared to 43% of white adults and 42% of Hispanic adults. [Pew Research Center, June 2017]

The Gifford Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, started by former Congresswoman Gabby Gifford (who was shot) and her husband, the former Astronaut Mark Kelly, has put out its annual scorecard grading states from A to F.

1 state is graded A: California
6 states are graded A-: New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland
2 States are graded B+: Illinois and Rhode Island
2 States are graded B: Washington and Delaware
1 State is graded C+: Minnesota
4 states are graded C: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oregon, Colorado
2 states are graded C-: Wisconsin, Iowa
4 states are graded D: Nevada, Nebraska, Ohio, Virginia
3 states are grade D-: Tennessee, North Carolina, Indiana
25 states received a grade of F.

For more information go online to

78% of registered voters say that gun policy will be “extremely/very important” to their vote in November.

45% of registered voters say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate for Congress in their district if they heard that the candidate had accepted a campaign donation from the National Rifle Association. 14% would be more likely to vote for that candidate. [CNN SSRS, 2/23/18]

The National Rifle Association is now basically aligned with the Republican Party.

In 1992 the NRA backed 115 Democrats for Congress. By 2010 that number dropped to 65. And by 2016 the number of Democrats supported by the NRA had dropped to 4.

The NRA is no longer just about guns. The group recently gave its “Courage under Fire Award” to the Federal Communication Commission for repealing net neutrality.

15-24 year olds

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), along with MTV, conducted a survey of young people 15-24 years of age. Here are select findings from that survey.

– 25% of young people report having been targeted or treated unfairly in the last 12 months because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, immigration status or religion.

– 84% of young people say Muslims face substantial discrimination in the United States

– 49% of young women who have been targeted fear for their personal safety. 32% of men have the same fears.

– Young women are more politically and socially engaged than young men. 48% of young women and 39% of young men say they have signed an online petition.

– 63% of young women believe that women face a lot of discrimination in the U.S. 56% of young men take the opposite view.

– 75% of young people believe that there is at least some pressure for men to act in traditionally masculine ways.

– 77% say America is very divided by politics, 57% say it is very divided by wealth or income, 48% say the country is very divided by race but only 38% say it is divided by religion.

– 56% of young people say discrimination against transgender people has increased in the last 12 months as has discrimination against black people.

– 74% of young people say that Muslims are portrayed in the news media and entertainment in a way that promotes negative stereotypes.

– 66% of young people say that the media/entertainment industries promote negative stereotypes of black people.

– 59% of young people who experience discrimination say it was direct and purposeful. 40% percent say the discrimination was indirect and possibly unintentional.

– 44% of young people say they have witnessed someone being targeted or treated unfairly because of their gender or have experienced it themselves in the last year. Only 12% of young people report having been personally targeted or mistreated due to their gender.

– 58% of young people report that they have personally intervened when they witnessed a friend or family member being targeted or treated unfairly. But only 33% reported intervening when they did not know the person being targeted.

– 68% of young Americans agree that women often have to be more qualified than men to be considered for the same job. 67% of the public as a whole have the same view. [PRRI, 7/19-8/3/27]

This and That

Here is a story of love and marriage in America.

When folks were asked to name the most important reasons for getting married…

– 88% said love
– 81% said making a lifelong commitment
– 76% said companionship
– 49% said having children
– Several other reasons were mentioned, each getting 30% or less.

71% say it is important for a man to be able to support a family financially in order to be a good husband or partner. 32% said the same thing for women to be a good wife or partner.

7% of adults were cohabiting in 2016. Half of cohabiters are younger than 35 years of age.

40% of new marriages involve a remarriage for at least one of the people.

Intermarriage in the United States has steadily increased from 3% in 1967 to 17% in 2015.

Support for same-sex marriage has gone from 37% in 2007 to 62% in 2017.

Of people married before 1960, 81% were married to a spouse of the same religion. In 2014 that number was 61%.

As of 2015, 15% of American adults have used an online dating site or mobile dating apps. That is an increase from 11% in 2013.
[Pew Research Center, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017]

China has now surpassed the United States as the leading trading partner of several South American countries, including Brazil, and stepped up investments in the region dramatically at a time when U.S engagement is on the wane. [Axios]

The recently enacted tax bill is gaining in popularity.

  December January February
Approve 37% 46% 51%
Disapprove 57% 49% 46%
[Winston Group, 2/23/18]

The Tax Policy Center has provided the following analysis of the recent tax law change.

– The lowest 20% of earners (incomes of $25,000 or less) should see an average tax of $60 in 2018.
– Those in the second lowest 20% should see a reduction this year of $380.
– The top 20% of earners should see an average cut of $7,640.
– The top 1% of earners should see an average cut of $51,000.
[Vox, 2/21/18]

1.2 billion golf balls are produced annually. 300,000 golf balls disappear every year in the United States. [FiveThirtyEight newsletter, 2/26/18]

Roughly 3.6 billion people use the internet. Of those, 1.6 billion are regular Facebook users. Regular Facebook users are defined as someone who logged in or posted a comment on the service at least one time in the last 30 days. Half the people who are not Facebook users are in China where Facebook is banned.

The City of Los Angeles consumes 587,000 acre-feet of water annually. A single farmer, Steward Resnick, the biggest farmer in California consumes 400,000 acre-feet to water the 15 million trees he has in the San Joaquin valley. [FiveThirtyEight Newsletter 2/2/18]

Americans are increasingly concerned that government will not go far enough to regulate big tech. The number concerned has grown from 40% in November 2017 to 55% today. Those concerned now include 45% of Republicans, 57% of Independents and 64% of Democrats. [Axios-surveymonkey, 2/23/18]

As a reminder, here are the age ranges of various generations as used in survey research.

Generation Age Range Share of Adult Population
Silent 73-90 years 11%
Baby Boom 54-72 years 29%
Gen X 38-53 years 26%
Millennials 22-37 years 28%
Pre-millennials 18-21 years 5%

What are the general political values of various generations?

Percentage of adult population in 2017
  Millennial Gen X Boomer Silent
Consistently or mostly conservative 12% 23% 32% 39%
Mixed 31% 34% 28% 32%
Consistent or mostly liberal 57% 43% 39% 28%

62% of the Silent Generation, 49% of the Boomers, 43% of Gen X and 29% of Millennials say it is necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values.

79% of Millennials, 66% of Gen X, 56% of Boomers and 47% of the Silent Generation say that immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents.
[PEW, 3/1/18]

3.5 ounces of Seaweed Salad at WWs local Safeway costs $4.99 or $1.43 per ounce. 28 ounces of Seaweed Salad at Costco costs $11.31 or $.40 per ounce.


WW received the following message from an old friend who receives my newsletter.
“You will be pleased to know that my 8 year old granddaughter is requesting diapers for Happy Bottoms for kids to bring to her birthday party instead of presents (she still has gifts from her last birthday that she hasn’t even opened). Very proud of her.”

Notwithstanding the efforts of the Trump administration to undercut the Affordable Care Act, a signature achievement of the Obama administration, a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 54% viewed the law favorably and 42% viewed it unfavorably.

A person’s perception of the law is driven by her/his political party identity.
85% of those who identify as Republicans view the law unfavorably while 19% view it favorably. Only 15% of those who identify as Democrats view the law unfavorably while 83% view it favorably.

55% of Independents view the ACA favorably while 40% view it unfavorably. [KFF 2/20/18]