Suzanne Fields

This decline in pride coincides with steep distrust of government in the different generations across the board. Only one in five of all Americans say they trust Washington to do the right thing, and these numbers are at the lowest levels in half a century. It's not hard to see what contributes to this disillusionment -- high unemployment, home foreclosures, an astronomical budget deficit, persistent partisan rancor, the craven failure of the debt panel and the overwhelming ineffectiveness of elected officials.

The Pew survey uses conventional labels for the generations that are not as descriptive as they ought to be, but which are familiar enough. Seniors born before 1946 make up "The Silent Generation," a name that sounds wrong when you consider how loud their voices have become in protecting their entitlements. Baby boomers include all those rebels born between 1946 and 1980, who have grown increasingly conservative as they find more things they want to conserve. If once they didn't trust anyone over 30, they're less likely to trust those under 30 now. Generation Xers born between 1965 and 1980 enjoyed the boom times of the '90s, but are caught now in the undertow of recession, many having bought their houses at the top of the market. Like the boomers, they've grown more conservative as they grow older and begin to worry about retirement.

Pew found that the millenial generation, the youngest voters, born between 1981 and 2000, enthusiastically supported Barack Obama. While the younger Democratic-leaning voters continue to support Obama, the president's job rating has fallen as steeply among this group as in others. More worrisome for the president as he embarks on his re-election campaign, the youngest voters are considerably less engaged in politics than they were four years ago.

It's tempting to search this survey for clues to who will win in 2012, but we'll have to wait, as usual, until the fat lady sings. The most famous singing fat lady in the memory of some of us was Kate Smith. Her voice and her song, "God Bless America," helped get us through a Depression and a war. That's something still to be thankful for.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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