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United States Zeitgeist 2017

A look at Americans’ attitudes towards the country, politics, business, and the future.

EEach year, we conduct the World Value Index research, which looks at how people are feeling about the world, and how they perceive brands to be contributing to the world. This year’s study comes at a particularly unusual time in culture. We asked a nationally representative sample of Americans how they were feeling about the world, about politics, business and the future.

What we learned was some good-ish news, some bad news, and divergent perspectives on how to move forward.

The Good-ish News

Despite the cultural turmoil,
People are generally optimistic about the future

*Elites = those earning over $100k/ yr, and at least college
*Lower income = those earning less than $50k/ yr

Despite cultural challenges,
People generally feel they can affect their own destiny

And despite aggressive political division,
People generally see living life with a sense of purpose as important

2. The bad news

Despite some optimism around our personal outlook,
Americans generally don’t believe the country is heading in the right direction
(although it helps if you’re wealthier, male and lean Republican)

3. How to change it?

Despite a general sense that the country is heading in the wrong direction,
We’re divided not just in how to move forward, but also what means are best to create progress.

And there’s not a clear sense of personal responsibility for improving the world around us

*Multiculturalist = those who believe experiencing other cultures is important to them.
*Traditionalist = those who believe experiencing other cultures is
not important to them.

Despite a majority seeking to affect the world around them,
A minority of Americans are actively involved in their community

Despite emotions running high,
Generally people are not taking personal action

Despite generally not taking matters into our own hands,
We don’t trust government leaders to do what’s right

And distrust of political leaders is leading to
Fewer young people following politics closely than previous generations

Could business be the path to progress?

Despite not taking personal action, being involved in our own communities, or trusting government to do what’s right,
People generally believe business can be a positive force

But despite optimism about businesses’ potential,
We generally don’t trust business leaders to do what’s right

Our take away from this data is a call to action: to combat our general pessimism on the future of the country, and realize our ambition of affecting positive change in the world, we need to engage at much greater rates in progress, however we personally see fit: in change through our communities, and/ or in change through politics, and/ or in change through business.

And for businesses, there is an urgent need to close the gap between the perceived potential for impact, and the extent to which people trust business leaders to do what’s right. That gap creates fundamental risk for the sustainability of brands (and the future of capitalism).

We generate this data to prompt conversation. So let us know what it raises for you.

You can download the 2017 World Value Index report at

Thanks to Kerry Stranman and Andrew Wisniewski, who led this research at enso.

A note on methodology:

The World Value Index was fielded to a nationally-representative sample of the US general population over three waves in February 2017, by Quadrant Strategies, a DC-based research firm. The margin of error is +/- 3.1%.

enso is a creative impact agency.
We work with innovative companies and organizations to create positive impact at scale through shared missions. Learn more at



Culture, brands, and people at the intersection of creativity x impact. Made by enso, a creative impact agency.

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