Here we are the beginning of a new decade, one that is already fraught with reasons to be concerned, and possibly pessimistic about the near future. In times like these, what is driving the new found American optimism that is beginning to be apparent one year into the 2020’s and one year into a worldwide pandemic and economic crisis?
Positive Shift in Personal Values
After a year of restrictions and shutdowns, which manifested declining fulfillment of our human needs and values, we are beginning to see a shift towards a more positive expression and fulfillment of the personal values that matter most to individuals and society as a whole. In just the last month, significant gains are now being seen in the personal values of Social Order, Pride, Personal Satisfaction, Enjoyment, Peace of Mind and Personal Security.
Notably, this positive shift is being driven by younger Americans (Gen Z and Millennials), People of Color, and those in Urban environments. As we have seen in the Heart+Mind Pulse tracking data over the past year, these are the same demographic groups that have weathered some of the most difficult financial challenges in the pandemic due to job and wage loss. Despite the painful first year of the 2020’s, a glimmer of hope is beginning to seep into their views.
Even though the first year of this new decade was defined by a global pandemic, job loss, economic uncertainty, and societal unrest, as we begin the second year nearly two-thirds of the public is optimistic about the rest of the decade to come. These results are consistent with the views of America’s CEO’s, according to a February Chief Executive Poll, finding leadership confidence in future business as good. Like the public, only about a third of CEO’s remain concerned about what is ahead. CEO’s express concerns around inflation, economic recession, and less business-friendly public policies.
Among the public, the most powerful facilitators of positive momentum and American optimism for the future center on 3 key things: improving healthcare access and affordability, a successful rollout of the COVID vaccine, and a strong and steady economic recovery. Additional, but less strong, influences to American optimism include restoring the leadership reputation of the United States, rebuilding by investing in our infrastructure and addressing home grown terrorism.
However, the public remains cautious about the country’s likelihood to see these things come to their full potential in the decade ahead. Most confidence is placed in a successful rollout of the vaccine, while far less confidence exists in the likelihood to progress on other important issues, with weakest confidence in areas such as gun violence, education reform, climate change, and having a more united nation and a return to bipartisan politics.
Despite the realities ahead, American optimism prevails.
Interview Dates: February 18-23, 2021
Audience: General Population, n=1,001
Respondents were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and were then screened in the survey based on quotas and survey audience definition. The data (approximately 1,000 respondents) were gathered across multiple, large online survey panels that included a cross-section of the US population.
To ensure representation of a wide variety of demographic groups, we established quotas by age, gender, region, race/ethnicity and education based on U.S. Census data for people aged 18 and older.
In a hypothetical case of a probability sample size of 1,000, the margin of error would be +/- 3.1% at the 95% confidence level. It should be noted that all sample surveys are subject to multiple sources of error, some known and some unknown, which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate. These include some of the following types of error: sampling, coverage, nonresponse, question wording/placement, response options, interviewer (in phone-based surveys), and post-survey weighting. The margin of error should be used as a directional guide because of these types of error and to account for online panel self-selection.