AP poll: Americans more optimistic about 2012 after downbeat 2011
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Break out the bubbly as 2012 approaches, a new poll shows that almost two-thirds of Americans believe that 2012 will be a better year than the one now ending. That isn’t saying much, with most people agreeing that 2011 set the bar low enough to snare even professional limbo dancers.
The same Associated Press-GfK poll that paints an optimistic picture of next year found that 68% of Americans called the year that ends this weekend a poor one, while 29% described it as a good year. It was so nasty for so many people that their New Year’s celebrations may be especially robust, with Americans trying to get 2011 out the door like an unwanted relative who has overstayed his or her welcome.
For most people, it has been a year of continuing economic crisis. For those who were out of work or trying to enter the labor market, jobs remained scarce -- and many jobs that were available often brought smaller paychecks than were earned just a decade ago. Even once-safe professions such as education and public employment were far less protected as municipalities tightened their fiscal belts.
Prices for basic necessities such as healthcare, food and fuel rose throughout the year, squeezing wage earners and the unemployed alike. Investments such as stocks struggled to break even, and home values in most areas continued to fall.
Being down so low meant that looking up was more than the best direction; for many, it was the only direction available.
According to the poll, 62% of Americans said they were optimistic about what 2012 will bring the nation, and 78% said they were upbeat about the year’s potential impact on their immediate family.
About 37% said they saw economic improvement in the next 12 months, compared with 24% who think the economy will worsen. On a personal level, 36% said they think their own financial situation will improve; 11% said they think it will worsen.
Politically, 2011 was the year when key institutions such as Congress and the presidency were unable to find common ground on solving major problems. “Kicking the can down the road” became both a phrase of political derision and of an inevitable last resort, as seen in the battles over raising the debt ceiling and extending the payroll tax holiday.
Democrats were more likely to view 2011 in a bright light than either independents or Republicans, according to the poll.
The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted Dec. 8-12 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved calls to 1,000 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The upbeat note caught by the poll could be considered especially positive in light of Census Bureau data released Thursday showing that more people will be around to enjoy the new year. The U.S. population is projected to increase by one person every 17 seconds next year.
According to the Census Bureau, when the ball drops in Times Square, the U.S. population is projected to be 312,780,968, an increase of 0.7% from New Year’s 2011.
In January 2012, one birth is expected to occur every eight seconds in the United States and one death every 12 seconds. Net international migration is expected to add one person to the U.S. population every 46 seconds in January 2012.
-- Michael Muskal