Cockeyed Optimists or Self-Fulfilling Prophets?

Out here on the frontiers of American public opinion, a faint but discernible breath of optimism is dusting the plains. This, even as economic experts warn of a slow recovery from the current severe recession and a record number of Americans express dissatisfaction with their current financial situation. Are average Americans prescient predictors of the state of the economy? Incurable believers in a better tomorrow? Or carriers in an epidemic of Obama Optimism?

The question is brought into focus by findings from recent surveys that show modest but consistent improvement in expectations about the nation's economy. One example: A May Pew Research survey found more than half of the public (53%) saying the government is on the right track in handling the nation's economic problems, whereas as recently as mid-January, only 31% held that view. Also in May, only 31% of the public reported hearing mostly bad news about the economy; at the end of last year a massive 80% said so.

Pew Research's latest poll shows slightly more than half (52%) still rate the nation's economic conditions poor, but that is down from 68% in March and 71% in February, while 63% expect their own financial situation to improve at least some over the next year.

Read the full report Cockeyed Optimists or Self-Fulfilling Prophets? on the Pew Research Center's Web site.

Spotlight on Mental Health

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies


Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.