State of the Nation

*Any statements in this issue of the Watch which are not sourced are mine and identified by “WW”.

37% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction. This includes 39% of men and 29% of women. 56% say it is on the wrong track including 47% of men and 57% of women. [Economist/YouGov 5/14/19]

In March, 31% of us were satisfied with the way things were going in the United States while 67% were dissatisfied. [Gallup 4/9/19]

As the Trump administration carries on trade negotiations, and as the presidential campaign heats up, Americans will do well to remember that there is no greater threat to the success of our national enterprise over the next quarter-century than mismanagement of the relationship with China. It is not just possible but essential to be strong and resolute without being imprudent and provocative.
[Larry Summers 5/15/19]

50% of U.S. adults belong to a church or other religious institution. This number has plunged by 20 points over the last two decades. According to Gallup, church membership fell among Democrats from 71% to 48% over those 20 years. The drop among Republicans was from 77% to 69%. Over the last two decades the percentage of U.S. adults with no religious affiliation has jumped from 8% to 19%. [Axios 4/18/19]

17% of Americans say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right, including 21% of Republicans and leaners and 14% of Democrats and leaners. Since the 1970s, trust in government has been consistently higher among members of the party that controls the White House. [PEW Research 4/11/19]

73% of Americans have only some/no confidence at all in the federal government’s ability to prevent foreign countries like Russia from directly interfering in our elections. 25% have a great deal/quite a bit of confidence in the governments ability to prevent foreign interference. [NBC/WSJ 5/1/19]

One-third of middle-class American adults couldn’t afford a $400 surprise expense and some 6% also couldn’t manage such a cost even by borrowing money or selling something. [Federal reserve 2018 survey of household economics, WSJ 5/11-12/19]

10,000 Americans turn 65 years of age every day. [WSJ 5/10/19]

Social Security will face insolvency in 16 years. If uncorrected, it will require a 20% across the board cut for all Americans who rely on the program. The Medicare hospital insurance trust fund will runout in 2026.
[Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget 4/22/19]

The share of 16-year-olds who get their driver’s license is down 20.2% between 1983 and 2017, dropping down from 46% in the 1980s to 26% in 2017. In 2017, only 80% of 20-24-year-olds were licensed drivers. [WSJ 4/19]

There is broad base support for LGBT protections across various religious traditions.

  Favor these protections
Unitarian/Universalist 90%
New Age religion 86%
Jewish 80%
Hindu 79%
Buddhist 75%
Hispanic Catholic 72%
White Mainline Protestant 71%
White Catholic 71%
Mormon 70%
Other non-white Catholic 68%
Other non-white Protestants 61%
Muslim 60%
White Evangelical Protestant 54%
Jehovah’s Witness 53%
[PRRI 2018 American Values Atlas]

According to an annual Gallup poll of more than 150,000 people around the world, Americans are among the most stressed-out people on Earth. 55% of them said they experienced stress during “a lot” of the previous day. That compares with 35% of stressed out folks globally. [NYT 4/26/19]

Demography of the United States:

  White Non-White
1960 85.4% 14.6%
1980 79.6% 20.4%
2000 76.4% 23.6%
2020 66.7% 33.3%
2032 59.5% 40.5%

Percentage of Democrats who call themselves liberal:

1994 25%
2018 51%

Number of days between a person’s first election and their first Time Magazine cover:

John F. Kennedy 3,987
Newt Gingrich 5,788
John Boehner 7,242
Marco Rubio 778
Nancy Pelosi 11,431
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 89

After 27 months in office, here are approval numbers for various U.S. Presidents, by their own party and the other party.

  Own Party Other Party
Trump 89% 8%
Obama 80% 18%
G W Bush 95% 50%
Clinton 73% 18%
G H W Bush 94% 68%
Reagan 78% 23%
Carter 52% 22%
Nixon 77% 23%
Johnson 59% 28%

[The Roaring 2020’s: The Coming Decade of Disruption & Reform- Bruce Mehlman]

Note: There are a variety of newsletters and reports on which WW relies: Cook Political Report, Inside Elections, NBC/WSJ poll, Axios, BLS, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and a variety of other newspaper and information repositories.

Now WW has added one more source, a report prepared and distributed by Bruce Mehlman. The item directly above is from Mehlman’s latest publication. To find it online the link is If you would like to be added to the distribution list for future reports, you can reach Bruce at


The official BLS seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April 2019 is 3.6%.

If one considers the total number of unemployed + those marginally attached to the labor force + those working part-time who want full-time work, the unemployment rate is 7.3%.

263,000 jobs were created in April. [BLS 5/3/19]

The Demographics of Unemployment for April 2018

Unemployment by Gender (20 years and older)
Women – 2.8% (decrease)
Men – 2.9% (decrease)

Unemployment by Race
White – 3.1% (decrease)
Black – 6.7% (increase)
Hispanic – 4.2% (decrease)
Asian – 2.2% (decrease)

Unemployment by Education (25 years & over)
Less than high school – 5.4% (decrease)
High School – 3.5% (decrease)
Some college – 3.1% (decrease)
Bachelor’s Degree or higher – 2.1% (increase)

In March 2019, 27 states had unemployment rates below the national rate; 3 states had an unemployment rate that was exactly at the national rate of 3.8%; 20 states and D.C. had unemployment rates that were above the national rate.

Alaska, at 6.5%, had the highest unemployment rate in the country. Arizona, New Mexico, West Virginia and D.C. had unemployment rates of 5.0% or more but less than 6.0%. 13 states had unemployment rates that were 4.0% or greater but less than 5.0%. [Bureau of Labor Statistics]

In the second week of April of this year, fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits than at any time since 1969. Claims for jobless aid fell by 5,000 last week to 192,000, the lowest since September 1969. [AP]

African American workers have received far smaller pay increases in recent years compared to other racial groups. This is true even though unemployment among African Americans is trending at historic lows. Although overall unemployment was 3.8%, it was 6.8% among African Americans.

For all workers, inflation adjusted, median weekly earnings rose 5.3% in the first quarter of 2019.

Hispanics 11.3%
Asian 10.0%
Whites 6.8%
All 5.6%
African Americans 1.6%
[WSJ 4/17/19]

1 of 8 American workers and 1 of 7 Europeans are highly vulnerable to automation and will require retraining. [OECD/Axios 5/12/19]

U.S. births have fallen to the lowest rates since the 1980s

Last year, the number of babies born in the U.S. fell to a 32-year low, deepening a fertility slump that is reshaping America’s population and future workforce. About 3.79 million babies were born in the country in 2018, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The general fertility rate—the number of births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44—fell to 59.0, the lowest since the start of federal record-keeping.

Overall, births still outnumber deaths in the U.S.—by more than one million in 2017, the most recent year for which the CDC has data on both. But that margin isn’t spread evenly across the country. About 43% of the nation’s 3,142 counties had more deaths than births in the fiscal year that ended in June 2018, Census Bureau estimates show. That’s up from about 33% of counties in the year ended in June 2010. Such “natural decrease” can weigh heavily on the economy in rural areas that combine an aging population with a loss of young people who have sought employment in cities.

This and That

6,227 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in 2018 according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, the highest number in three decades. Experts attribute the rise to “drivers and pedestrians distracted by their phones” and an increase in large vehicles. [NPR]

There are about 40 species of bats living in the United States. Worldwide, there are more than 1,300 species of bats. [WP 4/17/19]

We sit. A lot. Because computers are fun to look at. According to research in the journal of the American Medical Associations, total sitting time for American adults and teens increased from about 6.4 hours a day in 2007 to 8.2 hours in 2016, he wrote, seated at his computer. [The Verge]

41% of global health spending is spent on 4.4% of global population. [Vitals 4/29]


Over the past five years, about 20 college campuses have closed every month, the overwhelming majority of which — 88 percent — were for-profit institutions. In the past six years, 2,300 students were displaced by public universities closing, 80,000 were displaced by private non-profit universities closing, and a devastating 451,000 students at for-profit colleges were displaced as a result of those businesses folding. Enrollments in for-profit schools is falling drastically, all while enrollment at public and non-profit colleges remains unchanged. [Noah Smith, Bloomberg]

By 2045 the U.S. will become majority minority. In 2020, the entire under 18 population will be majority non-white. In less than 10 years the under 30 population will be majority non-white. [Axios 4/29/19]

In 1934, after 145 years of congressional activity, the U.S. code consisted of one volume of federal statutes. In 1970 there were 11 volumes. In 2019 there are 41 volumes plus 242 volumes of regulations having the force of law. [George Will quoting James Buckley, WP 5/2/19]

DVDs are on the way out. In the 4th quarter of 2015, $2.2 billion worth of DVDs were sold. In the 4th quarter of 2016 that number had dropped to $1.9 billion. At the same time in 2017 that number was $1.5 billion. A year later the number was $1 billion. In the most recent quarter for which there is data the number was down to $0.8 billion. [Numlock News 4/30/19]

56% of Americans rate their financial situation as excellent/good while 57% think their financial situation as a whole is getting better and 66% say they have enough money to live comfortably. [Gallup 4/30/19]

Feelings toward each of the major political parties are more negative than positive. 35% are positive about the Republican party and 42% are negative. As for the Democratic party, 34% have positive feelings toward the party while 39% have negative feelings. [NBC/WSJ 5/1/19]

72% of folks think that parents should be required to vaccinate their children for diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella. 25% believe that parents should be able to decide whether or not to vaccinate their children. [NBC/WSJ 5/1/19]

Recently, The Council of Independent Colleges spring newsletter featured an interview with Peter Hart who was in his 45th year of a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellowship (the longest serving fellow).

As part of his interview he was asked the following by interviewer Roger Bowen, “In your long and distinguished career, you must have done polls that produced results that surprised you. Can you tell me about a situation when findings were unexpected or showed a big shift in public attitudes?”

Hart replied, “The most amazing thing I’ve seen in American public opinion has concerned attitudes toward same-sex marriage. I started measuring this in 1989. In the late 80s and early 90s, American attitudes were overwhelmingly negative against same-sex marriage. One of the things I discovered through polling was that people who knew someone who was gay had totally different attitudes than people who didn’t.

“Only a small portion of Americans thought they knew someone who was gay then, but as people got to know more, attitudes shifted more in 15 years on that one issue than on any other issue I have measured. To me, it was a tremendous revelation and gratifying to see how open the American public became.”

Social Media

Recently PEW Research Center did a study of how Twitter is used by U.S. adults who use the platform. And who, in general, is online and who is not online.

  • 80% of tweets are sent by 10% of the tweeters. The bottom 90% of tweeters send 20% of the tweets.
  • The median adult tweeter posts 2 tweets a month.
  • The most prolific adult tweeters are likely to be women.
  • Of those in the top 10% by number of tweets, 65% are women.
  • Women account for 48% of less prolific users.

Do not use internet

  • 48% in 2000
  • 10% in 2019
  • 10% of adults/10% of men/9% of women
  • 8% of whites/15% of blacks/14% of Hispanics
  • Ages: 0% of those 18-29
  • 3% of those 30-49
  • 12% of those 50-64
  • 27% of those 65+
  • 18%/those earning less than $30,000 per year
  • 2% of those earning $75,000+
  • 9% of those living in urban areas
  • 6% of those living in Suburbia
  • 15% of those living in Rural areas

Researchers from Oxford University have determined that by the year 2100, under a conservative scenario where no new users join the social network, 1.4 billion Facebook users will be dead. And by 2070 the dead will outnumber the living. These startling truths of mortality highlight social networks’ “wider efforts to grapple with the thorny problem of what to do with dead people.” [MIT Technology Review]