AP-NORC poll: Most Americans see nation on the wrong track
By MICHELLE R. SMITH and EMILY SWANSON
Tuesday, January 29
PAWTUCKET, R.I. (AP) — The state of the union is dark.
A large majority of Americans say they are pessimistic about the state of the country and few expect things will get better in the year ahead, according to a poll released Tuesday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research .
A week before President Donald Trump delivers his assessment of the nation in a State of the Union speech to Congress delayed by a record-setting government shutdown, the survey found just 28 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction.
Meanwhile, 70 percent say America is headed the wrong way. That’s up from 59 percent in December, with the percentage of those saying the country is on the wrong track now at its highest point in about a year.
A majority of Americans, 52 percent, also believe things are going to get worse over the next year.
While Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to feel negative about the direction of the country, even Republican pessimism is on the rise. The poll found 55 percent of Republicans and just 9 percent of Democrats think the country is headed in the right direction. A month ago, 69 percent of Republicans and 16 percent of Democrats said the same.
Jim Wadkowski, an 80-year-old self-described conservative from Fountain, Colorado, said he approves of the job Trump is doing but sees the nation going the wrong way.
“All they do is fight. If one party thinks it’s good, the other thinks it’s bad. If the president thinks it’s good, the party opposed to him thinks it’s bad,” he said of the nation’s leaders. “They don’t do anything for the people.”
The remarkable level of national gloom is even beginning to extend to how Americans view the economy, once a relative bright spot in America’s mood. Since December’s swoon in the stock market, a slim majority of Americans still has positive feelings about the national economy, but many expect it to decline in the next year.
The AP-NORC survey was conducted during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, the result of Trump’s desire to deliver on his campaign vow to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border running headlong into the commitment of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats to stop him.
When Trump delivers the State of the Union address delayed by that political fight next month, he’ll speak to a nation both in need of a pep talk and deeply skeptical of him as a messenger. The survey found that 34 percent of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, compared with 65 percent who disapprove.
Carrie Montgomery, a 40-year-old learning specialist from Pawtucket, said she blames Trump for what she sees as an increase in “people’s boldness in speaking hatefully to other people.”
“I’m concerned about the oppression and hatred that the president drives in this country — the safety of citizens and their ability to access their basic human rights,” she said.
Trump’s approval rating is near his all-time low as president, as measured by AP-NORC polling since he took office two years ago. But the survey finds the nation’s pessimism reaches beyond the recent budget standoff and its opinion of the president, as doubts about the economy appear to be growing.
For the first time since February 2018, Americans are significantly more likely to disapprove of Trump’s handling of the economy than approve. In October, and for much of the last year, about half of Americans approved of Trump’s handling of the economy.
Democrats are staunchly negative in their ratings of the president overall and on most issues, but about 2 in 10 had approved of the president on the economy last year. Now, only 14 percent of Democrats do so.
Americans in general feel better about the state of the economy than about the country in general, but also find increasing anxiety about what will happen in the next year.
About half of Americans, 53 percent, describe the economy as generally good. But looking ahead, they’re more likely to expect the economy to get worse than better, 44 percent to 27 percent. Another 27 percent expect no change. A month ago, Americans were evenly divided on whether the economy would improve or worsen.
The poll shows 8 in 10 Republicans call the current economy good, while just 37 percent of Democrats say the same. And 56 percent of Republicans expect the economy to get better in the next year, while 67 percent of Democrats expect it to get worse.
Early in 2018, 68 percent of Republicans expected the economy to improve and 50 percent of Democrats expected it to worsen.
At the Modern Diner in Pawtucket, 40-year-old waitress Kelcie Tipping is among the more than half of Americans who believe the economy is still in good shape. She’s worked at the restaurant for 10 years, and business is booming, although she’s nervous about a future in which robots or other technology could push people out of work.
“As long as people are making money,” she said. “As long as there’s jobs.”
The AP-NORC poll of 1,062 adults was conducted Jan. 16 to 20 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods and later were interviewed online or by phone.
Online: AP-NORC Center: http://www.apnorc.org/
Stressed out by shutdown chaos? 4 evidence-based tools to help you cope
January 29, 2019
Author: Laurel Mellin, Associate Clinical Professor of Family & Community Medicine and Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco
Disclosure statement: Laurel Mellin, Ph.D. is the founder of EBT, Inc. an educational organization that provides certification and training in Emotional Brain Training to health professionals and the public and owns shares in the organization.
Partners: University of California provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Despite the short-term relief from the government shutdown, there’s a growing feeling that what appears to be political chaos in Washington is rippling across the country.
People needn’t try to escape the stress. In fact, in stressful times, we can update how our brain copes with daily chaos and stress overload, and boost our natural capacity for resilience using neuroscience.
After more than three decades of studying the brain under stress and with my colleagues at University of California San Francisco, I have found that advances in neuroplasticity are showing us how to make the “lemons” we all face during stressful, chaotic times into lemonade by training the brain to recover from stress overload faster. The following four tools are my picks to enhance your resilience.
Tool 1: Identify your stress number
When the brain is under stress, it activates circuits that trigger the fight-or-flight response. These circuits reside in the emotional brain, or “unconscious mind,” and are activated without our permission. They charge up drives to repeat old responses that can trigger a spiraling down into dysfunction. Or they can trigger a spiraling up into equanimity, love and purposeful action. Brain-based stress management involves strengthening the dominance of the wires that promote healthy coping, so the brain becomes wired to favor spiraling up.
Rapid-fire change during periods of extreme uncertainty causes strong emotions to kick in. In a period of extreme and prolonged stress, the brain’s set point, its default stress level, declines. Stress becomes chronic and unrelenting. If our set point slips enough, the default brain area in charge is no longer the sensible neocortical brain, the prefrontal cortex, which integrates emotions and thoughts and finds wise compromises and “win-wins.”
Instead, the emotional brain that houses the stress center, the amygdala, takes control, signaling emotional shut downs and overreactions. The shared stress load of modern life may be moving us collectively into the “age of the emotional brain” when our “normal” setpoint activates physiologic stress overload.
By checking in to identify the stress level of the brain, we can more accurately predict and control our responses in daily life.
To take charge of stress, thinking our way out of problems is not effective. We’re better off identifying our “brain state.” The first step in emotional brain training is to assign a number to the stress we are feeling, using a scale of one to five, with one being optimal. To determine our number, we check to see how we are feeling and functioning in several areas of life, then use this neurophysiologic “tag” of our state for more rapid stress reduction and to appraise our functioning more accurately.
The EBT 5 Point System for emotion regulation.
Tool 2: Use damage control
When multiple levels of extreme change and discords settle into our unconscious mind, we go to “Brain State 5.” In this state, the neocortex goes on holiday, and the reflexive circuits of the emotional brain silently distort our emotions, thoughts, relationships and coping behaviors. We know we should not make important decisions, take rash actions or blame others in that state. All three are almost impossible to avoid because the amygdala is in control, which is why using this damage control tool is our first defense.
The damage control tool starts with three evidence-based techniques for decreasing physiologic stress: diaphragmatic breathing, or breathing deeply into your belly; proprioceptive posturing, or what some have called “good posture with a smile;” and decentering, or observing yourself. Then it repeats messages that counteract the fight-or-flight messages to judge, harm and believe all is lost: Do not judge. Minimize harm. Know it will pass.
Tool 3: Honor that you are the solution
When the drive to align with one side or the other ramps up during confusing and heated times, appreciate that we humans do have power to connect with the deepest part of ourselves and determine what we believe – in all its complexity.
This is hard to do, because stress is contagious. The emotional brain has no walls. Walk into a room of stressed people and their brain circuits of stress overload can instantly enter your brain circuitry, activating a cascade of stress circuits that cause anxiety, depression, procrastination and common excesses. Their stress can infect you with the polarization and induct you into their inner world of emotions and expectations. The brain’s natural drive to be like others for primordial safety – we are tribal – can amplify that toxicity.
Although we can surround ourselves with loved ones, accepting our separateness is vital to development. Of the seven circuits of basic expectations that help us evolve, the first is facing that we are responsible for our lives. An emotional brain training tool that helps us focus inside and trust ourselves involves repeating several simple statements: I do exist. I am alone. My reward for accepting that: a new sense of peace and power from within.
The neurologist Victor Frankl asserted that everything can be taken away from a person, but our last freedom is “to choose our own way.” We can make that choice most effectively when we are at Brain State 1, as it is the state of neural integration, when the emotional brain is not ruling us. We are cognitively effective and draw upon our wealth of emotional circuit activations that encourage us to be our wisest and best selves.
The power of one person is all we have, and from that secure connection to ourselves, we can move past the numbing passivity or misguided aggression to a place of equanimity, assertion and engagement in effective change.
Tool 4: Identify your higher-order reward
Our survival brain not only drives us to avoid stress but also demands that we feel rewarded. The two high-reward states are Brain States 1 and 5. When we are at Brain State 1, we access love, compassion, gratitude, hope, forgiveness, awe and joy. When we are at Brain State 5, the neocortex and emotional brain split, and we cannot access those rewards; instead we reward ourselves with common excesses, artificial pleasures and everyday addictions and compulsions.
Whether we use contemplation, prayer or emotional processing tools, the brain-based solution to stress is to find our way to Brain State 1, then bring to mind one of the higher-order rewards, upon which rests the survival of the species, such as integrity, authenticity, intimacy or freedom. Projections between the neocortex and emotional brain will deliver a burst of dopamine and endorphins to the brain’s reward center. It will swamp stress and boost our capacity to think clearly and take balanced and effective action.
A moment of opportunity
When people feel peaceful, they are more likely to be able to help other people and to contribute to life.
Stress can be good for us because only then can we heal old wounds and update our most fundamental expectations about life. Emotional neuroplasticity – being present to our emotions during stress and using our neocortical mind and unlocking the synaptic connections of neurons and updating our circuits – is at the forefront of brain plasticity research. Often, in moments of stress when we have a flash of emotion we can change our circuitry, which is the neuro-biological basis for both “bottoming out” and personal transformation.
Even though the shared stress we face now can be overwhelming, it is also a time of profound possibility. Imagine if we used the situation of the shutdown to update how we think about stress and take it as a challenge to improve brain function by getting to Brain State 1 more often. As the primitive brain evolved to instantly read the unconscious intentions of others – friend or foe, higher-order reward or lower-order reward – in order to survive, our unconscious expectation of higher order rewards not only changes our day, but can be experienced by others.
We give back in a special way. Even if we disagree with others, by unconsciously transmitting to them our fundamental expectations of higher purpose, we may infect them with those caring, connecting expectations, changing their brain one neural circuit at a time. Perhaps we cannot agree on policies, but we can agree on purpose.
By taking really good care of our stress – and our brain state – we can change own inner world and change the world as well. In fact, in the age when the emotional brain is fast becoming our societal controller, that could be the solution that we’ve been seeking.
This is an updated version of an article that was published originally July 19, 2018.
TJ Martin: To be blunt with no insult intended or implied the solutions proposed barely good psychology never mind neuroscience : more resembling New Age psychobabble than anything .
A vastly superior way to deal with Trump induced chaos ( and in fact all manufactured chaos regardless of the context and the source )
1) Familiarize yourself with the basic concepts and strategies of propaganda and mind control of which the foundations of both are deeply rooted in manufactured chaos
2) Recognize that the entire agenda of the Trump administration is aimed at creating chaos in the pursuit of A ) Propaganda .. leading to B) Absolute control
( For the record Trump’s entire M/O since his emergence into the public eye in the 70’s has been rooted in chaos in his demented quest to maintain absolute control )
3) Learn to FILTER . 99% of all the garbage coming from Trump & Co especially his Tweets is just that .. garbage ….
4) Let go of any Apps , websites etc that are not bonafide verifiable broadcasters of facts and news
5) Limit your daily news input … period .. because unfortunately the one thing the media across the board has not learned to do themselves .. is to FILTER
6) Try to find the humor in it all . Its there .. believe me ( Bill Maher is great at extracting humor out of the chaos )
7) Then recognize that Trump .. like every other POTUS and their administrations good or bad… will disappear like a bad wind
Rediscovering America: A State of the Union Quiz
By J. Mark Powell
For the first time, a presidential State of the Union address was rescheduled due to partisan politics. It will be held one week later than originally planned. It’s the latest chapter in a tradition that stretches to the closing days of the 18th century.
How much do you know about the State of the Union speech? Take the quiz below and test your knowledge of the constitutional mandate that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union.”
1. Who delivered the first State of the Union speech?
A: George Washington, 1790
B. James Madison, 1812
C: Abraham Lincoln, 1865
D: William Howard Taft, 1911
2. Which president sent his report to Congress in writing, establishing a precedent that was followed for more than a century?
A: John Adams, 1797
B: Thomas Jefferson, 1801
C: John Quincy Adams, 1826
D: Chester Arthur, 1884
3. This president revived the custom of delivering the State of the Union in person to Congress.
A. William McKinley, 1899
B. Theodore Roosevelt, 1905
C. Woodrow Wilson, 1913
D. Herbert Hoover, 1930
4. This president had the first State of the Union address broadcast on radio.
A: Warren Harding, 1922
B: Calvin Coolidge, 1923
C: Franklin Roosevelt, 1933
D: Dwight Eisenhower, 1953
5. The first televised State of the Union address was delivered by:
A: Franklin Roosevelt, 1945
B: Harry Truman, 1947
C: John F. Kennedy, 1962
D: Richard Nixon, 1970
6. Two presidents never gave State of the Union reports because they didn’t live long enough. Who were they?
A: Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Harrison
B: William McKinley and Warren Harding
C: Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore
D: William Henry Harrison and James Garfield
7. The longest address (in terms of time) lasted nearly 90 minutes, including applause. It was delivered by:
A: Ronald Reagan, 1988
B: George H.W. Bush, 1992
C: Bill Clinton, 2000
D: George W. Bush, 2005
8. Coming in at 1,089 words, which president had the shortest address based on word count?
A: George Washington, 1790
B: Martin Van Buren, 1838
C: Franklin Pierce, 1857
D: Grover Cleveland, 1887
9. Based on its staggering 33,667 words, which president’s address was the longest of all?
A: Andrew Johnson, 1867
B: Lyndon Johnson, 1967
C: Richard Nixon, 1973
D: Jimmy Carter, 1981
10: Which president’s address was first carried live on the internet via the House website?
A: Bill Clinton, 1998
B: George W. Bush, 2002
C: Barack Obama, 2009
D: Donald Trump, 2018
Answers: 1-A, 2-B, 3-C, 4-B, 5-B, 6-D, 7-C, 8-A, 9-D, 10-B
ABOUT THE WRITER
J. Mark Powell is a historical novelist and former broadcast journalist. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
DOJ’s Whitaker says Russia probe ‘close’ to being completed
By MICHAEL BALSAMO and CHAD DAY
Tuesday, January 29
WASHINGTON (AP) — The special counsel’s Russia probe is “close to being completed,” the acting attorney general said in the first official sign that the investigation may be wrapping up.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s comments Monday were a departure for the Justice Department, which rarely comments on the state of the investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
“The investigation is, I think, close to being completed,” Whitaker said Monday at the end of an unrelated news conference in Washington. He said he had been “fully briefed” on the probe.
Whitaker did not elaborate or give any timetable for the end of a nearly two-year investigation that has shadowed Trump’s presidency.
So far, special counsel Robert Mueller has charged 34 people, including several close to the president. But he has yet to accuse anyone close to the Trump campaign of conspiring with the Kremlin to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and help Trump win the election.
Whitaker, who is seen as a Trump ally, took over the Justice Department — and oversight of the Mueller probe — after Jeff Sessions resigned as attorney general in November at Trump’s request.
Whitaker has drawn criticism for not recusing himself from the Russia investigation, even though he has publicly criticized it in the past. A top Justice Department ethics official advised him to step aside out of an “abundance of caution,” but Whitaker declined to do so.
According to Justice Department regulations, Mueller has to provide a report to the attorney general at the conclusion of his investigation laying out his prosecution decisions.
But it’s unclear what form the report will take or whether it will be released publicly.
And depending on when Mueller wraps up, the report may not go to Whitaker. Trump has nominated William Barr to serve as the next attorney general. His confirmation hearing was held this month and he’s awaiting a vote in the Senate.
Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month that he wants to release as much information as possible about Mueller’s findings, but he has hedged on specifics.
Trump has slammed the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt” and says there was no collusion.
The evidence so far shows that a broad range of Trump associates had Russia-related contacts during the 2016 presidential campaign and transition period, and several lied about the communication. Those contacts, according to Mueller’s indictments and U.S. intelligence agencies, occurred while the Russian government carried out a multifaceted effort to influence the 2016 presidential campaign and attempt to sway it Trump’s way.
On Friday, longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone became the sixth Trump associate to be charged by Mueller.
The others are Trump’s former national security adviser, his campaign chairman, his former personal lawyer and two other campaign aides.
Stone faces a Tuesday morning arraignment in federal court, where he is expected to plead not guilty to charges that he lied to lawmakers, engaged in witness tampering and obstructed a congressional investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Though most defendants facing charges tend to stay quiet for fear of inflaming prosecutors or a judge, Stone has opted for a different tack since his pre-dawn arrest Friday.
Stone staged an impromptu news conference outside a Florida courthouse, made the rounds on weekend television interviews and mocked the probe on Instagram, posting a cartoonish image of Mueller holding a “nothingburger” — just a hamburger bun with no meat.
Also Monday, a judge delayed the sentencing of Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort in Virginia after he was convicted of eight financial crimes last year.
The sentencing is being delayed as a judge in Washington decides whether Manafort intentionally lied to investigators.
Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.