PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans enter the new year with considerably more optimism than pessimism about what it may bring: 58% say 2011 will be better than 2010, 20% say 2011 will be worse, and 21% say it will be the same.
Americans, however, are cautious in making these prognostications. The substantial majority of optimists say things will be "a little" better rather than "a lot" better, and pessimists are more likely to say things will be a little worse rather than a lot worse.
This is the first year in which Gallup has asked this question, and thus it is not known if Americans' relative optimism at this point is greater or less than it has been in the past.
Democrats are considerably more positive than independents and, in particular, Republicans about the year ahead. More than 7 in 10 Democrats say things will be better in 2011, contrasted with slightly less than half of Republicans. The remaining Republicans tilt toward saying things will stay the same in 2011 rather than getting worse. This pattern is consistent with Gallup's overall measure of U.S. satisfaction, which finds Democrats more positive than Republicans about the direction of the nation over the past two years since President Barack Obama took office.
Younger Americans are also more optimistic than older Americans, although a majority of each age group says things will be better in 2011.
Less Optimism About the Way the Nation Is Governed
In contrast to their lower overall level of optimism about the new year, Republicans are slightly more positive than either independents or Democrats when it comes to perceptions of how the nation will be governed in 2011.
Republicans' views on whether the nation's governance will be better or worse in 2011 are +26 percentage points more positive than negative, while the gap among Democrats is +17 points. Among the three groups, independents are the most likely to say the nation's governance in the new year will be about the same.
Younger Americans are slightly less positive about the way the nation will be governed in 2011 than those who are older, which contrasts with their relatively more optimistic general views about the new year.
All in all, optimism about the nation's governance in 2011 is low, with 42% of all Americans saying it will be better, compared with more than half who say it will be the same or worse.
Americans enter the new year with substantially more optimistic than pessimistic views about what 2011 may bring -- which could represent their generally optimistic nature, or it could reflect views of a recovering economy. Gallup.com will this week publish a separate story revealing Americans' views on the future of the U.S. economy.
The new year will bring a significant change in the way the nation is governed as Republicans take over control of the House of Representatives and Democrats retain control of the Senate and the White House. Nevertheless, Americans -- at least when polled prior to the productive conclusion of the lame-duck Congress -- are not strongly optimistic that the nation's governance is headed toward brighter days in 2011.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 10-12, 2010, with a random sample of 1,019 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.