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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 12/31/2008

The Real Politics of Hope

Barack Obama's election has already contributed to one major change in public attitudes - optimism for the year ahead is now higher among Democrats, sharply lower among Republicans.

In a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, most Democrats said they are hopeful about what 2009 has in store for them personally and for the world in general. Most Republicans, by contrast, are mainly fearful on both counts.

Overall, 63 percent of those polled said they are hopeful about their own prospects in the new year, while slimmer majorities are hopeful about how things will go for the world overall (54 percent hopeful) or express optimism about the way things will go for the country (51 percent).

Republicans are in a far more dour mood about the future than they were two years ago (or in the case of the economy, even a couple of months ago), while Democrats take a sunnier view of things than they did before Obama's victory.

Among Republicans, optimism about the nation's prospects and their own in the coming year have each dropped more than 30 percentage points since December 2006, with positive views declining in far smaller increments among independents. Optimism among Democrats is up slightly (five points to 64 percent), with a similar bump in hopefulness about how they will fare personally in 2009 (four points to 75 percent). And 77 percent of those who voted for Obama -- who built his presidential campaign around a theme of hope -- said they feel hopeful about what the coming year holds in store for them.

The partisan divide on the national economy has grown markedly since the election. In late September, 41 percent of Democratic registered voters said they felt optimistic about the economy, as did 49 percent of Republican voters. Now, 59 percent of Democrats said they feel optimistic about the economy in the coming year, compared with 37 percent of Republicans.

But there is almost no partisan difference on views of personal finances. Across party lines, about seven in 10 in the new poll said they feel optimistic about what 2009 will mean for their balance sheet.

Assessing prospects for the world in general, 54 percent said they feel hopeful about what 2009 will bring, 45 percent more fearful. Those figures are about even with 2006 levels, but here too, partisan views have shifted. Among Democrats, 67 percent in the new poll feel more hopeful about the world's prospects, compared with 56 percent in 2006, while among Republicans, hopefulness has plummeted from 65 percent to 39 percent. Independents held steady with 48 percent hopeful.

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Looking ahead to the next year, are you more hopeful or more fearful about what the year (2009/2007) holds in store for you personally? (% saying "hopeful")

Among Democrats

Among Republicans

Thinking about the next 12 months, would you say you feel more optimistic or pessimistic about the policies Obama will pursue? (% saying "optimistic")

Among Democrats

Among Republicans

Looking ahead to the next year, are you more hopeful or more fearful about what the year (2009/2007) holds in store for the world? (% saying "hopeful")

Among Democrats

Among Republicans

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  06:00 AM ET, 12/31/2008

Categories:  Post Polls

 
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