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Americans Have Higher Hopes for Prosperity Than Peace in 2019

Americans Have Higher Hopes for Prosperity Than Peace in 2019

Story Highlights

  • Six in 10 Americans are optimistic about employment in coming year
  • Nearly half are optimistic about the economy generally
  • Just 28% believe 2019 will be a peaceful year internationally

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are generally optimistic about the nation's employment levels and stock market performance in 2019, even as most are pessimistic about the prospects for political cooperation and world peace. The public is also more negative than positive about the direction of the U.S. crime rate but evenly split in its outlook for economic prosperity and the trajectory of U.S. global power.

Summary of Americans' Outlook for 2019
Predict positive situation Predict negative situation
% %
Rate of employment 59 39
Stock market 54 43
Economy 49 49
U.S. power in the world 49 49
Crime rate 41 57
World peace 28 70
Political cooperation 11 87
See survey topline for exact question wording
Gallup, Dec. 3-12, 2018

These findings are from a Dec. 3-12 Gallup poll asking Americans to predict the direction that each of seven aspects of the country or world will take in 2019. While the poll was conducted as the Dow Jones Industrial Average was in the process of falling below 25,000 for the third time in 2018, it was prior to the steep decline that occurred in the second half of the month, as well as the record setting post-Christmas rebound and subsequent volatility. It was also before the start of the partial government shutdown in late December.

Americans' answers to the seven different outlook questions are as follows:

  • 59% of U.S. adults believe 2019 will be "a year of full or increasing employment" while 39% expect "a year of rising unemployment."
  • 54% predict 2019 will be "a year when the stock market rises" while 43% foresee "a year of a falling stock market."
  • 49% predict 2019 will be "a year of economic prosperity" whereas 49% expect "a year of economic difficulty."
  • 49% think 2019 will be "a year when America will increase its power in the world" whereas 49% say it will be "a year when American power will decline."
  • 41% are optimistic 2019 will be "a year of falling crime rates" while 57% expect "a year of rising crime rates."
  • 28% predict 2019 will be "a peaceful year, more or less free of international disputes" while 70% expect it to "a troubled year with much international discord."
  • 11% predict 2019 will be "a year of political cooperation" while 87% for "a year of political conflict."

The latest poll represents the first time Gallup has asked Americans for their predictions about the stock market's performance and political cooperation in this format. It provides the fourth measure of expectations about crime since 1998, with the current degree of pessimism fairly typical for those results. Only once, in 1999, did more Americans think crime rates would fall than rise.

The other four items in the poll were measured multiple times in the 1960s and 1970s and then occasionally since 1998. Two of these -- the outlook for the economy and employment -- show above-average optimism, historically, while perceptions of world peace are about average and views of Americans' global influence are below the long-term average.

Current Predictions for Employment Approach Record Highs

The 59% of Americans who believe 2019 will be a year of full or rising employment is among the highest readings in Gallup's trend since 1960, nearly matching the 62% in 1998, during the dotcom boom.

Gallup's lowest measurement of this sentiment was 6% during the 1973-1975 recession. The highest was 67%, during a period of record-setting economic expansion and low unemployment in the 1960s.

Line graph showing 59% of Americans expect full or rising employment in 2019, versus a range of 6% to 67% since 1960.

Americans' Expressing Moderate Economic Optimism for 2019

The 49% of Americans who believe 2019 will be a year of economic prosperity is similar to the 52% feeling this way a year ago about 2018, as well as the 44% heading into 2004. However, it is better than six years ago, as the country was still recovering from the 2007-2009 recession when just 33% thought 2012 would be a good year for the economy.

Today's optimism about the economy is not as strong as when Americans were looking ahead to 1999, when 62% were optimistic.

Longer term, Americans were relatively upbeat about the economy in the late 1960s, while such optimism was scarce at points in the 1970s.

Line graph showing 49% of Americans predict 2019 will be a year of economic prosperity, versus a range of 7% to 65% since 1965.

Expectations For 2019 To Be Peaceful on Par With Recent Decades

Optimism about world peace is relatively scarce, as just 28% of Americans think that 2019 will be "a peaceful year, more or less free of international disputes." However, this is improved from last year's 19% and similar to the levels in all four readings since 1999.

The high point on this measure was 54% heading into 1959, while the low of 11% was in reference to 1966, as President Lyndon Johnson was escalating the Vietnam War.

Line graph showing 28% of Americans predict 2019 will be a peaceful year, versus a range of 11% to 54% since 1960.

Views of U.S. Global Influence in Lower Half of Long-Term Range

The 49% of Americans who currently believe America's global power will expand in 2019 is about midway between the 37% to 60% range seen over the past two decades, and closely matches the 51% recorded just prior to 2005, during the Iraq War. However, perceptions of U.S. global influence were much stronger in Gallup's earliest trends on this question during the 1960s, when the optimistic reading was as high as 84%

Line graph showing 49% of Americans predict U.S. global power will expand in 2019, versus a range of 29% to 84% since 1960.

Partisans Disagree Most on Outlook for U.S. Global Power

Most of these predictions reflect, to some degree, on the sitting president's know-how and leadership, meaning it is natural that Republicans and Republican-leaning independents would be far more optimistic in their views about 2019 with President Donald Trump in office, than are Democrats and Democratic leaners.

Still, today's optimism gap between Republicans and Democrats is far wider for the belief that America will increase its power globally -- 57 percentage points -- than it is for any other prediction. Fairly large partisan gaps, of 38 to 46 points, are also seen in people's outlook for the economy, the stock market and employment.

The gaps are smaller with respect to three areas where neither party group is particularly upbeat: international peace, crime and political cooperation.

Predictions for 2019, by Political Party
Republican/ Lean Republican Democrat/ Lean Democratic Difference
% % pct. pts.
America will increase its power 79 22 57
Year of economic prosperity 75 29 46
Year when stock market rises 75 35 40
Year of full or increasing employment 80 42 38
Peaceful year, free of international disputes 41 18 23
Year of falling crime rates 48 36 12
Year of political cooperation 11 10 1
pct. pts. = percentage-point difference between Republican and Democratic responses
Gallup, Dec. 3-12, 2018

Bottom Line

Despite stock market volatility throughout much of 2018 and some concern that rising interest rates will slow the economy, Americans were feeling fairly good in early December about where the stock market and employment trends were headed in 2019. Also, half were upbeat about the economy overall. Granted, that was prior to the latest tumult in the stock market, but with Republican exuberance driving much of these attitudes, any wobble in confidence is likely to rebound as long as the market doesn't continue to fall in January.

Meanwhile, relatively high partisan accord is found for unemployment with four in 10 Democrats agreeing with most Republicans that the outlook for jobs is bright. On a less positive, but not unwarranted note given recent events, both parties are braced for discord internationally and within U.S. politics.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.


Lydia Saad is the Director of U.S. Social Research at Gallup.

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