The Realism of Global Optimism

Read a newspaper or watch the evening news, and the world always seems to be on the brink of some disaster. As a result of journalists' bias in favor of bad news, we often think the world is in worse shape than it is – even if we think our own lives are improving.

PRAGUE – Read a newspaper or watch the evening news, and the world always seems to be getting worse. One problem after another is put under a spotlight. The more death, destruction, and despair, the better. As one Danish journalism textbook puts it: “A good story is usually bad news.”

Only occasionally do we get uplifting, things-are-getting-better stories. When we do, they feel like a guilty pleasure. As a result, we often think that the world is in worse shape than it is – even if we think our own lives are improving.

Consider this: Since 1978, American consumers have been asked whether their current financial situation is better or worse than it was a year earlier. Over the past 25 years, an average of 38% have said they are doing better, while 32% have said they are doing worse. But, when asked the same question about the overall US economy, an average of 47% have said it is doing worse, compared to 38% who think it is doing better. More people think their lives are improving, while others are doing worse, probably because of journalists’ persistent bias in favor of bad news.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

http://prosyn.org/Y5Cie2U;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.