Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Great Recession vs. The Great Depression

Americans are in a foul mood. They're unhappy with their economic prospects, convinced the country is headed in the wrong direction, upset with the federal government, and equally annoyed at Congress.

Their attitudes are understandable. After the worst economic downturn since the Depression, who wouldn't be this gloomy?

Folks from the Great Depression, apparently. According to a trove of early Gallup surveys compiled by the Roper Center, Americans in the 1930s were not nearly as down on government as we are today. They wanted more, not less, from Washington in the way of services and protection from the private market. Incredibly, despite their much deeper recession, Americans were more optimistic than we are today.

Optimistic 'Socialists' ...

Between the Great Depression and the Great Recession, the United States underwent dramatic technological changes. In the 1930s there was the TVA--but no TV, and, of course, no Internet. More than half of the predominately-male, overwhelmingly-white sample surveyed in a series of polls in 1936-37 by the then-new Gallup organization had average incomes or better. But 46% had no telephone, 43% lacked a car, and 38% still preferred the old black-and-white movie variety to color.