Ronald Brownstein writes for The Atlantic about a change for the worse in American attitudes about the future.

When Americans look to the future, two mega-trends evoke the most optimism about the nation’s long-term trajectory, the latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll has found.

One of these trends, the onset of the digital revolution, evokes optimism in every major segment of society. But the second one, the nation’s growing racial and ethnic diversity, divides Americans along lines of race, generation, and, above all, partisanship, thereby illuminating some of the fault lines in modern American life.

The new poll asked respondents to consider whether six of the social and economic dynamics that are crucial to the nation’s future make them “more optimistic or more pessimistic about the direction the country is headed.” Only two of the six trends made a majority of respondents feel more optimistic. A resounding 78 percent said “continuing advances in computer and communications technology” made them feel better about the nation’s future; only 17 percent said they felt worse. As for “America’s increasing racial and ethnic diversity,” a less emphatic but still solid 57 percent said it made them cheerier about the country’s future, while 32 percent said it heightened their pessimism.

But the feelings of optimism ended there. The other four trends polled found less than a majority of respondents who felt good about the long-term impact of: the quality of the nation’s education system; the growing number of elderly as Baby Boomers retire; the quality of decisions made by corporate leaders; and the way the government works, or doesn’t, in Washington.