The new poll asked respondents to consider whether six of the social and economic dynamics that are crucial to the nation’s future make them “more optimistic or more pessimistic about the direction the country is headed.”
Only two of the six trends made a majority of respondents feel more optimistic.
A resounding 78 percent said “continuing advances in computer and communications technology” made them feel better about the nation’s future; only 17 percent said they felt worse.
As for “America’s increasing racial and ethnic diversity,” a less emphatic but still solid 57 percent said it made them cheerier about the country’s future, while 32 percent said it heightened their pessimism.
But the feelings of optimism ended there.
The other four trends polled found less than a majority of respondents who felt good about the long-term impact of: the quality of the nation’s education system; the growing number of elderly as Baby Boomers retire; the quality of decisions made by corporate leaders; and the way the government works, or doesn’t, in Washington.
Optimism can engender consensus, as the digital revolution has shown. The survey found Republicans and independents (both at 77 percent) almost as likely as Democrats (at 81 percent) to view it as a cause for optimism. Racial differences, too, were muted: While Hispanics (89 percent) and African Americans (81 percent) were particularly enthusiastic, 75 percent of whites also found it a reason for hope.