Americans Have General Optimism about Future

June 23, 2010

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Data-driven | Financial Services | Pharma & Healthcare

While Americans’ optimism in many areas decreased between May 1999 and April 2010, a majority still has generally positive views of how life will unfold during the next 40 years, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and Smithsonian magazine.

Six in 10 Optimistic for Selves, Country
Sixty-four percent of US adults said they had an optimistic view of life for themselves and their families during the next 40 years in April 2010. Another 61% said they had an optimistic view of the future of the US during that time period. Economic expectations were slightly less positive, with 56% saying the economy will get stronger in the next 40 years.


Optimism in all three of these categories has dropped, steeply in some cases, since a similar poll was conducted in May 1999. At that time, 81% of US adults had an optimistic view of life for themselves and their families, 70% had an optimistic view of the future of the US, and 64% thought the economy would get stronger. This likely reflects the dotcom-fueled economic boom of the late 1990s, as well as the different nature of life in America before 9/11 and the Iraq/Afghanistan wars.

Race Relations and Health Care Expected to Improve
US adults are actually more optimistic today than they were 10 years ago about the long-term future of certain aspects of American life. While the percentage of adults saying race relations will improve by 2050 remained flat at 68%, fewer now say they will get worse (23%) than did in 1999 (28%).


Although Americans have lower expectations of economic improvement than they did 10 years ago, fewer now expect the rich-poor gap to grow (58%) than did in 1999 (69%). A considerably higher percentage of Americans now expects health care to become more affordable (50%) than in 1999 (36%).

Expectations of the future of public education have diminished, however. Forty-nine percent of US adults expect public education to improve in the next 40 years, compared to 66% in 1999.

In response to a question not asked in 1999, 40% of Americans think the country’s role in the world will grow more important by 2050, while 53% think it will grow less important.

Public Economic Expectations Improve Moderately
Looking into the shorter-term future, US consumer expectations for the economy and job market improved somewhat in May 2010, according to results of a recent Harris Poll.

Consumers’ overall expectations for the performance of the economy in the coming year remained virtually flat between April and May 2010. Thirty-eight percent of consumers said the economy will improve in the coming year (compared to 39% in April 2010), while 34% said it will stay the same (compared to 35% in April 2010) and 28% said it will get worse (compared to 26%).

When asked to evaluate how their household economic condition would fare in the next six months, consumers were slightly more optimistic. Twenty-five percent said it will improve (compared to 21% in April 2010), while 47% said it will stay the same (compared to 50% in April 2010) and 28% said it will get worse (compared to 29% in April 2010).

About the Data: This survey was conducted by landline and cell phones April 21-26, 2010, among 1,546 US adults.


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