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The day Obama’s Democratic convention opened in 2008, Facebook announced its 100 millionth user, a benchmark it actually took longer to reach than its now-overshadowed rival, Myspace. Facebook is closing in on its billionth user, sitting with Twitter as kings of the social-media mountain until something else knocks them off.
Who we are » Fatter. The average woman has gained 18 pounds since 1990, to 160 pounds; the average man is up 16 pounds, to 196, Gallup found.
Poorer as a whole, but richer than during the recession. The value of people’s homes, stocks and all other assets stood at $62.9 trillion in March, the latest count, down from $66 trillion before the economy tanked but up from $51.3 trillion at the downturn’s depths.
Indebted, but perhaps not up to the eyeballs. Credit card debt has declined about 14 percent since 2008. Americans also have less mortgage debt, but more student debt and auto loans. The savings rate, meantime, climbed to 4.2 percent last year, a big improvement from 1.5 percent in 2005. But then there is the government. It is indebted past the eyeballs.
Hotter. The period from July 2011 to June 2012 was the warmest 12-month stretch on record. Altogether, the contiguous states posted an annual all-season average temperature of 56 degrees in that period, which is 3.3 degrees hotter than either of the years that Obama and Romney were born. The hottest calendar year on record for the U.S. is 1998, at 55.08 degrees, but that may not last this year’s swelter and lack of winter. Most of the past 15 years have been among the steamiest on the books, and all 15 were hotter than Romney’s birth year, 1947, and Obama’s, 1961.
More numerous. The U.S. has 314 million people. The country surpassed 200 million in 1968 and 300 million in 2006.
More diverse. For the first time, more than half the children born in the U.S. are racial or ethnic minorities, and by 2040 or several years after, non-Hispanic whites are expected to become a minority of the population. Along with this trend has come a historic jump in interracial marriages, which now make up an estimated 8.4 percent of marriages, up from 3.2 percent in 1980.
Addicted to texting. Cellphone users sent an average of 13 text messages a day in December 2008, double the number from a year earlier, the government said. More recently, Pew researchers found the average teen sent more than 64 texts a day.
Older. Between 2000 and 2010, the population of people aged 45 to 64 grew by close to one-third as the baby boom generation and those behind it grayed. That has helped to push the median age to 37.2 — half the population younger than that, half over.
A lot of those young people are named Sophia, the top girl’s name for the first time, and Jacob, No. 1 choice for boys for the past 13 years. So long Mary and James, the dominant names over 100 years.
What we think » On the issues of the day, the economy has no near rival atop the list of concerns. Pocketbook matters often rule but Americans were heavily focused on war in the early going of the last campaign. As the recession deepened, though, and now with troops coming home, it’s been the economy plain and simple — the issue ranked important by more than 9 in 10 respondents to an AP-GfK poll out this past week.
About half of us approve of the job Obama is doing, the poll found. About half disapprove. Voters are about evenly split on the race, and among those who lean to one man or the other, very few are open to changing their minds. Obama’s years-ago vision of a nation of united states soaring above the divisions of red states and blue states seems a pipe dream in a fractious time.
The sharp lines and stagnant views are evident in public opinion on gun laws, abortion, health care, taxes and the federal budget deficit — on which polling has long shown wide divergence. The Pew Research Center reports that partisan polarization on basic policy questions is at its highest point in 25 years.
One exception has been support for gay marriage. In May of 2008 as Obama was wrapping up the Democratic nomination, just 40 percent of Americans told Gallup’s pollsters same-sex marriages should be recognized by the law as valid. This May, 50 percent said yes to the same question, the most striking shift in social attitudes during Obama’s presidency. Still, more than 30 states have passed measures against it and it’s frequently a losing issue at the ballot box. There are no united states on this question.
Polarization doesn’t stop at politics or policy, either. It appears to be embedded in personal relationships. A pre-convention Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll found Democrats and Republicans tend to be surrounded by fellow partisans — two-thirds of their friends and family share their party leanings.
Many of us belong to tribes tinted red or blue.
What we earn » Few could have seen it coming back when Bill Clinton was scrambling to salvage his presidency from the Monica Lewinsky business, but his later years in office are starting to look like one of the economy’s golden ages. Unemployment was low, the government miraculously took in what it spent and the stock market marched steadily upward, at least until the bubble burst.
Household income peaked in 1999, at $53,252 in today’s dollars, and has declined since, to $49,445 in 2010. That puts households back to where they were in the mid-1990s.Next Page >
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