Americans’ expectations for 2013 are bleaker than they’ve been in more than a decade, with Republicans leading the way in adopting gloomier outlooks, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
A bare 53 percent majority of all Americans are “hopeful” about their lives in 2013; 44 percent say they are instead more “fearful.” Their assessments of what’s in store for the world are even more grim: A record low 40 percent report being hopeful about next year, with 56 percent saying they are more fearful.
Those personally hopeful numbers are down sharply from four years ago, when 63 percent said as much after President Obama’s historic first election. The trend is even more striking compared with expectations for 2007, before the national economic bubble burst. In December 2006, nearly three-quarters were more hopeful than fearful.
Perceptions of a lingering recession, a weak economic recovery and fears that the nation will fall off the “fiscal cliff” underpin these sagging expectations. More than three-quarters think the economy is still in a recession, despite positive indicators such as falling unemployment.
The fast-approaching Dec. 31 deadline for Congress and Obama to reach a budget deal is compounding negative perceptions of the coming year. About 45 percent think the president and congressional Republicans probably will not reach an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, a set of automatic tax increases and spending cuts. Personal fears about the new year rise to 58 percent among those who think this failure is likely.
Nearly six in 10 are very concerned about the national economy if a budget agreement is not reached soon. Among those with high concern, 53 percent are fearful about the future.
Not all the perceptions are slipping. Fully 53 percent say that based on their own experiences, the economy has begun to recover, a sentiment that has crept up steadily from 36 percent in November 2011 to a new high. Still, even among those who see a recovery happening, most say it is weak.
Republicans and Democrats report far different perceptions of the recovery as well as hopes for their lives. More than seven in 10 Democrats say the economy is beginning to recover, but fewer than half as many Republicans see a turnaround.