Editor’s Note: This is a very interesting survey I came across recently. The survey was originally done in 2016, however, its accuracy in the age of covid is intriguing. 2016 was a pinnacle year for political ideologies and the proliferation of wokism and cancel culture. Hindsight is 20/20.
LET’S BEGIN WITH THE BIG REVEALS: Half of all Americans are angrier today than they were a year ago. White Americans are the angriest of all. And black Americans are more optimistic about the future of the country and the existence of the American dream. There are depths and dimensions, dark corners and subtle contours to our national mood, and setting aside the issue of who actually has a right to be angry and about what—these pages are neutral territory; everyone is allowed their beef—we found three main factors shaping American rage:
EXPECTATIONS: Are you disappointed? Do you feel stifled and shortchanged and sold a bill of goods? Then you’re probably pretty angry. Consider the white men and women in our survey: From their views on the state of the American dream (dead) and America’s role in the world (not what it used to be) to how their life is working out for them (not quite what they’d had in mind), a plurality of whites tends to view life through a veil of disappointment.
When we cross-tabulate these feelings with reports of daily anger (which are higher among whites than nonwhites), we see the anger of perceived disenfranchisement—a sense that the majority has become a persecuted minority, the bitterness of a promise that didn’t pan out—rather than actual hardship. (If anger were tied to hardship, we’d expect to see nonwhite Americans—who report having a harder time making ends meet than whites, per question three—reporting higher levels of anger. This is not the case.)
Indeed, despite having what many would consider a more legitimate case for feeling angry, black Americans are generally less angry than whites. Though they take great issue with the way they are treated by both society in general and the police in particular, blacks are also more likely than whites to believe that the American dream is still alive; that America is still the most powerful country in the world; that race relations have improved over the past eight years; and, most important in the context of expectations, that their financial situation is better than they thought it would be when they were younger. Their optimism in the face of adversity suggests that hope, whatever its other virtues, remains a potent antidote to anger.
EMPATHY: When we take a close look at our respondents by gender, women report a greater rise in anger than men over the past year. (See question two.) One possible explanation: Although they share many of the same frustrations with respect to dashed expectations, they are more likely than men to be angry about the treatment of others. (See question 14.) That perception of unfairness has a way of rubbing people the wrong way.
EXPERIENCE: Seventy percent of blacks express anger about the way they are treated by society. Forty-eight percent of women are angry about the way they are treated. Even 21 percent of white men say they are angry at how they are treated in this country. People get angry when they don’t like how they and theirs are treated. People, we suppose, are funny like that.
A NOTE ABOUT TERMINOLOGY: Anger—the intensity and frequency with which it is felt—can be a challenge to measure, but for these purposes, we kept it simple: We measured and compared anger primarily according to the frequency with which respondents report hearing or reading something that makes them angry. Those who report feeling angry a few times a day are considered angrier than those who report feeling angry once a day, who are angrier than those who get angry once a week, and so forth. To the lucky souls who say they rarely hear or read something that makes them angry, namaste: We’d love to know your secret.
IN THIS ARTICLE WE ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT RACE, RELIGION, SEX, SEXUALITY, MONEY, AND A MULTITUDE OF OTHER POTENTIAL UNPLEASANTRIES.
About how often do you hear or read something in the news that makes you angry?
Seventy-three percent of whites say they get angry at least once a day, as compared with 56 percent of blacks and 66 percent of Hispanics. Seventy-seven percent of Republicans get angry at least once a day, as compared with 67 percent of Democrats. The least angry household-income brackets: the very rich ($150,000-plus) and the very poor ($15,000 and less). The most angry: the middle of the middle class
($50,000 to $74,999).
FIFTY THREE PERCENT OF WOMEN SAY THEY’RE ANGRIER (AS COMPARED WITH 44 PERCENT OF MEN). MORE SPECIFICALLY: 58 PERCENT OF WHITE WOMEN AND 51 PERCENT OF WHITE MEN SAY THEY’RE ANGRIER (AS COMPARED WITH 44 PERCENT OF NONWHITE WOMEN AND 32 PERCENT OF NONWHITE MEN).
Which best describes your family’s financial situation? You feel as if you:
- Make enough to save and buy some extras. 35%
- Make just enough to pay bills and obligations. 46%
- Don’t make enough to pay all the bills. 18%
There’s little correlation between anger and how one’s faring financially. In fact, though whites report less difficulty making ends meet than blacks and Hispanics, they report greater instances of anger.
Do you think the American dream—if you work hard, you’ll get ahead—is alive and well?
• Blacks are more likely than whites and Hispanics to say the dream is alive (45 percent versus 35 and 34).• Men are more likely than women to say the dream is alive (40 percent versus 33).• The group most down on the American dream: Americans between the ages of 45 and 64, i.e., the ones who are sweating about retirement.
Which of the following comes closest to your opinion of today’s immigrants?
- They strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents. 51%
- They are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing, and health care. 46%
Seventy-three percent of Hispanics and 63 percent of blacks believe immigrants strengthen our country; only 43 percent of whites agree. Compared with those who hold pro-immigration views, those who hold anti-immigration views are significantly more likely to say the American dream is dead; significantly more likely to say the U. S. was once but is no longer the most powerful country; and twice as likely to say that white men are struggling to keep up in today’s world.
What’s your sense of America’s place in the world?
- The U. S. is the most powerful country in the world. 41%
- The U. S. was once the most powerful country but isn’t anymore. 54%
- The U. S. was never the most powerful country. 4%
TELLING STATISTIC NO. 1: Whites are more likely than blacks to say their financial situation today isn’t what they thought it would be when they were younger.
TELLING STATISTIC NO. 2: Whites are more likely than blacks to chalk up their current financial circumstances to things being “harder today” than “wrong choices.”
TELLING STATISTIC NO. 3: Whites are more likely than blacks to say they get angry more than once a day.
- Changes in the U. S. tax code. 10%
- Wall Street banks and financial companies. 18%
- Capitalism in general. 17%
- Technology and increased productivity. 2%
- It’s a natural part of the economic cycle. 3%
- Globalization and jobs going overseas. 17%
- Not enough educational opportunities. 3%
Of those who see the gap widening between the rich and the poor, a majority (56 percent) say the American dream no longer exists and that their financial situation is worse than they imagined it would be. Fifty-five percent say the U. S. is not as powerful as it once was.
From what you have heard or read about the movement called #BlackLivesMatter, do you…
SCHOOL SHOOTINGS: THE RAGE WE ALL AGREE ON
YOU’LL NOTICE THAT SCHOOL SHOOTINGS AREN’T ADDRESSED IN ANY OF OUR “MAJOR DIFFERENCES” BOXES. THIS IS BECAUSE RAGE ABOUT SCHOOL SHOOTINGS EXCEEDS A RATE OF 90 PERCENT AMONG ALL ETHNICITIES, GENDERS, AND POLITICAL PARTIES. THAT’S ABOUT AS CLOSE TO UNANIMOUS AS YOU CAN GET IN AMERICA.
MAJOR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN POLITICAL PARTIES
What Republicans get angriest about:
Congress being dysfunctional (80%); massive consumer fraud (80%); cops shooting an unarmed black man (65%).
What Democrats get angriest about:
Cops shooting an unarmed black man (84%); massive consumer fraud (83%); billionaire vowing to spend $500 million on 2016 elections (80%).
MAJOR DIFFERENCES AMONG ETHNICITIES:
Hispanics are more likely than whites and blacks to be angry about climate change (49 percent versus 39 and 28).
Whites and Hispanics are more likely than blacks (67 and 64 percent versus 44) to be angry about the Cosby headline.
Blacks are more likely than whites and Hispanics to be mad about police violence against blacks (88 percent versus 71 and 76).
Whites are more likely than blacks and Hispanics to be mad about the Hispanic population surge (42 percent versus 25 and 22).
MAJOR DIFFERENCES AMONG GENDERS:
Things that men are angrier about than women:
Global warming (42 percent versus 36 percent); Caitlyn Jenner’s wedding (45 versus 36); gay marriage (27 versus 18).
Things that women are angrier than men about:
Cops shooting an unarmed black man (77 percent versus 72 percent); billionaires buying elections (73 versus 66).
Things that they are equally angry about:
Consumer fraud (80 percent versus 79 percent); dysfunction of Congress (74 versus 73); Cosby (65 versus 62); Hispanic population surge (33 versus 30).
Do you think recent killings of African-American men by police are isolated incidents or part of a larger pattern in the police’s treatment of African-Americans?
THREE OUT OF FIVE WHITE AMERICANS THINK THAT POLICE KILLING ARE ISOLATED INCIDENTS; THREE OUT OF FOUR BLACK AMERICANS BELIEVE THEY’RE PART OF A PATTERN.
THE WEIRD PART: WHITES ARE MUCH MORE LIKELY THAN BLACKS TO SAY THAT RACE RELATIONS HAVE BECOME WORSE SINCE BARACK OBAMA WAS ELECTED. ONE POSSIBLE EXPLANATION: WHITES ARE DOWN ON RACE RELATIONS BECAUSE OF THE WAY THEY BELIEVE THEY ARE TREATED, NOT BECAUSE OF THE WAY BLACKS ARE TREATED.
Which groups have a right to be angry about how they’re treated?
- Evangelical Christians 19%
- Muslims 34%
- Atheists 16%
- Blacks 47%
- Women 42%
- Hispanics 37%
- White men 18%
- LGBT individuals 45%
- None of the above 26%
Which of the following words do you most closely associate with the term feminism?
Among women, 49 percent chose equality and 9 percent chose anger. Among men, 36 percent chose equality, while 19 percent chose anger. (There was little difference in answers between genders with respect to revolution and fairness.)
WHAT IT MEANS:
Whereas blacks and Hispanics get the angriest at how others are treated (as seen in their roughly equal mean QAs), and blacks are the least likely to say “none of the above” (meaning they are the most likely to care enough to care), whites report the lowest degree of anger about how others are treated (see the low anger quotient) and have the highest likelihood of saying “none of the above.”
THE EMPATHY GAP
When we asked respondents to tell us which groups they felt had a right to be angry (question 13) and which groups they themselves felt angry about (question 14), we noticed a gap between the two percentages—an empathy gap.
In the general population, the greatest empathy gap occurred when we asked people how they felt about the treatment of blacks and Hispanics—there’s a 6-percentage-point gap between the people who believe that blacks and Hispanics are being wronged and those who are actually angry about it. (When you ask about the treatment of women, the gap is 3 percentage points; when you ask about Muslims, it’s 4.)
Among ethnicities, Hispanics report the lowest average empathy gap: 2.625 percentage points between recognizing a group’s right to be angry and feeling anger on that group’s behalf. (Compare this with 3.875 percentage points among whites and 4.875 percentage points among blacks.) The largest gap exists with respect to how blacks feel about the treatment of Hispanics (47 percent of blacks believe Hispanics have a right to be angry, while 37 percent of blacks are actually angry about that treatment).
WHAT IT MEANS: Whereas blacks and Hispanics get the angriest at how others are treated (as seen in their roughly equal mean QAs), and blacks are the least likely to say “none of the above” (meaning they are the most likely to care enough to care), whites report the least anger about how others are treated (see the low anger quotient) and have the highest likelihood of saying “none of the above.”
Which of the following best describes your opinion of white men in the United States?
- They have historically run the country and still do. 38%
- They are less powerful than they used to be but still have a lot of control. 46%
- They are struggling to keep up, while other groups are moving ahead. 14%
Last year, a county clerk in Kentucky, Kim Davis, refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples on the basis of her religious beliefs. Do you…
- Support her decision. 24%
- Oppose her decision. 61%
- Not sure. 13%
A MAJORITY OF DAVIS SUPPORTERS BELIEVE THE U. S. IS NO LONGER THE CHRISTIAN NATION IT ONCE WAS. THEY ALSO BELIEVE THAT THE GOVERNMENT INTERFERING WITH PEOPLE’S ABILITY TO PRACTICE RELIGION IS OF GREATER CONCERN THAN RELIGIOUS GROUPS FORCING THEIR BELIEFS ON OTHERS.
Do you think elected officials generally enact policies that favor the interests of …
If you were going to attend a protest, what would your sign say?
- #BlackLivesMatter Is a Hate Group. 6%
- Make English America’s official language. 24%
- We Don’t Build Walls. We Tear Them Down. 17%
- Keep Your Hands off My Uterus. 12%
- Abortion Is Murder. 13%
- Don’t Tell Me How to Dress. Tell Them Not to Rape. 18%
- We Came Unarmed. This Time. 6%
- The NRA Kills Our Kids. 10%
- We Are the 99 Percent. Occupy Wall Street. 10%
- Taxed Enough Already. 36%
Top three signs for Republicans:
Taxed Enough Already; Make English America’s Official Language; Abortion Is Murder.
Top three signs for Democrats:
We Don’t Build Walls. We Tear Them Down; Taxed Enough Already; Don’t Tell Me How to Dress. Tell Them Not to Rape.
The NBC News/SurveyMonkey/Esquire Online Poll was conducted from November 20 to 24, 2015, among a national sample of 3,257 adults ages 18 and over, including a targeted sample of adults with an education level of high school or less. Data for this survey have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, region, evangelism, and religious affiliation to reflect the demographic composition of the United States. For more on the methodology, click here.
Photography: Jane Stockdale for Esquire
Typography: Sean Freeman + Eve Steben for Esquire