My neighbors do a wonderful job of decorating their homes for the holidays. Stunning wreaths, brilliant Christmas lights and amusing inflatables and animatronics from Santa Claus to Homer Simpson dot the landscapes. The world is brighter for a few weeks, and children (and kids at heart) delight in the change.
Then the day after Christmas, it all starts coming down. Quickly. Back into the garage or attic. See ya next time. Folks are ready to get back into their pre-holiday routines and move on to a new year.
Not me, though. I like to spend a few days this time of year savoring the sights and sounds of the season and thinking back over the previous 12 months. It’s fascinating to remember the year that was — the big stories that seemed like they’d never go away, but that have faded from our minds nonetheless.
Counting ‘em down
Last week, the Pew Research Center released a package of press releases detailing what was and wasn’t on the public’s mind in 2005. According to the organization, the top 10 public opinion trends of the year were:
10. Feds Out of Favor — Both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government took a beating in the public.
9. Social Security — Despite a nationwide push, President Bush’s plan to allow individuals to divert part of their payroll taxes to private accounts stumbled.
8. Evolution Devolution — As proponents of “intelligent design” pressed to have their theory more widely taught, many in the media and in the public as well were surprised to find that a majority of Americans rejected natural selection and other tenets of the theory of evolution.
7. Schiavo Backlash — Public opinion delivered a surprise verdict on a bill rushed into law by Congress in March that would have required federal courts to intervene in a state court decision allowing removal of feeding tube from a long-comatose Florida woman.
6. Domestic Issues Ascendant — While terrorism still ranked high among the public’s concerns, domestic priorities rose in prominence in the public mind.
5. Inward Turn — Isolationist sentiment was on the upswing, with more than four-in-10 among the public saying America should “mind its own business internationally “ — on par with numbers expressing that view after the closing of the Vietnam War and the Cold War.
4. Pump Shock and Economy Anxiety — Even before hurricanes in the Gulf added momentum to already rising gas prices, the public remained apprehensive about the economy.
3. Iraq Disillusionment — Following a small post-election bounce, public approval of the president’s handling of the situation in Iraq resumed its downward drift, hitting a low of 37% in October.
2. Hurricane Blowback — Most Americans gave the federal government a failing grade on its handling of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath.
Additionally, a poll found that at one point, “as many Americans worried that the government would spend too much on hurricane relief as feared that it would spend too little.”
1. Presidential Popularity Plunge — Starting his second term with less popular support than other recent re-elected incumbents, President George W. Bush saw his approval ratings further erode under public opposition to his foreign and domestic policies and new focus on alleged ethical lapses in his administration.
Read more online at The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press at http://people-press.org/.
As we wrap up the loose ends of 2005, one can only wonder about the headlines we’ll see in the coming days. Fortunately, for those of us in this business, the best stories are always yet to come. I’m looking forward to them.
Contact MBJ editor Jim Laird at firstname.lastname@example.org.