It's Not Your Imagination—Americans Are Angrier Than Ever

Whites have the most rage of all, and blacks overall are more likely to believe in the American dream.
Women protesting in Ferguson, Missouri. (Photo: YouTube)
Jan 4, 2016· 2 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

It takes little more than a scroll through the day's headlines to know that Americans are angry: Armed ranchers are occupying federal land in Oregon, and Donald Trump's new television ad exploits national fears by repeating images of the San Bernardino gunmen and Islamic State militants.

If it seems like the country's collective anger has grown stronger and more fiery in the past 12 months, it's not just your imagination. A new poll shows that half of all Americans, on the whole, are angrier now than they were at this time a year ago, and a vast majority report becoming angry at least once a day by something they've seen or heard in the news.

The survey of more than 3,000 adults, conducted via SurveyMonkey by NBC News and Esquire magazine and published Monday, doesn't just tally rising levels of fury—it quantifies it, showing which headlines make our blood boil most and exposing the complicated ways race and class affect our feelings of anger.

The survey found that the angriest Americans were white women, people in the shrinking middle class, and members of the Republican party. Overall, female respondents were more likely than their male counterparts to say they are more angry now than they were a year ago. The country's rapidly declining middle class—no longer a majority as more Americans are pushed into poverty or ascending to wealth—is the angriest socioeconomic group of all.

Nearly three-quarters of all whites surveyed said they get angry a minimum of once a day, compared with 56 percent of blacks and 66 percent of Hispanics. Crunching the numbers by political party, 77 percent of Republicans said they experienced anger at least daily compared with 67 percent of Democrats.

But the poll also showed optimism among African Americans during a year in which the Black Lives Matter movement spotlighted disproportionate police killings of people of color, racial tensions erupted into protests on college campuses nationwide, and black churches were targeted by arsonists following a racially motivated massacre in the South.
Blacks were more likely than whites and Hispanics to have faith in the American dream, to believe that race relations have improved during President Barack Obama's administration, and to say that their financial situation has exceeded their expectations as children.
"Despite having what many would consider a more legitimate case for feeling angry, black Americans are generally less angry than whites," Esquire editors wrote in their analysis of the poll. "Their optimism in the face of adversity suggests that hope, whatever its other virtues, remains a potent antidote to anger."

Blacks were overwhelmingly more likely than whites to be upset about police violence against blacks and to say that police killings are part of a pattern, rather than an isolated incident. Compared with men, women are more likely to be angry about police shooting an unarmed black man.

Nearly half of all Americans polled said that race relations in the United States have worsened since Obama's election. Esquire editors offered that whites were more likely to make this argument potentially because of the way they believe they're treated, rather than because of the way blacks are treated.

The poll comes at a time when distrust of the government has reached a historic low: In a recent Pew Research Center survey, just 20 percent of Americans described the government as well run. The issues that riled Republicans the most? Dysfunction in Congress, consumer fraud, and police killings of unarmed black men, in that order, according to the Esquire and NBC poll. Meanwhile, the issue of police brutality topped the list of concerns for Democrats, followed by consumer fraud and billionaires pledging to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2016 presidential election.