2021 Brings Hints of Optimism on Key National Issues

Although Americans remain largely pessimistic about important national issues, that level of pessimism is falling compared to three months ago.

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A recent study by the Harris Poll on behalf of Yahoo Finance found that Americans’ pessimism toward key national issues has fallen since October 2020.

Although negative sentiment has dropped slightly, Americans are still the most pessimistic about the country’s finances. Sixty-one percent say the national debt will be worse three months from now (down 2% from October), and 50% say the same about the U.S. economy (down 3%). However, Americans are increasingly pessimistic about tax rates with 44% expecting tax rates to get worse over the next three months (up 7%).

The rollout of vaccines at the end of 2020 may have affected national sentiment toward COVID-19. Today, Americans are nearly split on their coronavirus outlook with 38% saying the situation will be better in three months (up 10%) and 42% saying it will be worse (down 5%).

Other topics of great importance to the incoming presidential administration are also experiencing hints of optimism compared to three months ago. Today, 32% of Americans think job prospects will be better three months from now (up 3%). There is also growing optimism toward the healthcare system (28%, up 8%) and the environment (24%, up 9%). Optimism for the education system has nearly doubled with 27% now saying it will be much better three months from now, compared to just 14% in October.

Given the national conversation on law enforcement and minority treatment over the past year, today, 28% of Americans think equality will be better three months from now (up 8%), and 27% think public safety will be better three months from now (up 9%).

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on January 15-19, 2020, among 1,029 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. For more information on methodology, please contact Dami Rosanwo.

Download full data here.