The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 31, 2013

DIGITS: Optimism over 2014 roughly a 50-50 deal

About half of Americans expect 2014 to be a better year than 2013, according to the recent AP-Times Square New Year's Eve poll. And judging by the typical questions pollsters use to measure the public mood, it doesn't seem like it could be much worse.

A look at how the public rated the nation's performance in 2013:

RIGHT DIRECTION? NOT QUITE YET

Whether people think the nation is heading the right way or the wrong way is a basic measure of optimism that pollsters have used for decades to gauge the public mood. In AP-GfK polling this year, few thought the United States had found the right path.

The December AP-GfK poll showed the share of Americans who feel the nation is heading in the right direction rebounded to 34 percent from its October low of 22 percent, but it's not clear yet whether that's a directional shift or just a temporary recovery — what Wall Street calls a dead-cat bounce.

On average in this year's AP-GfK polls, 33 percent said the country was heading the right way, down from 38 percent in 2012 but about on par with the 2011 average of 32 percent. That 2011 figure marked the low point of President Barack Obama's time in office.

This year, average "right direction" numbers among Republicans (10 percent) and independents (24 percent) are at new lows for Obama's term, but Democrats buoy this year's figure with 54 percent saying the nation is on the right path, a bit above 2011's average of 47 percent.

OBAMA'S APPROVAL FALLS

Obama's approval ratings shifted notably this year, landing in negative territory on average for the first time in his presidency. In AP-GfK polling conducted this year that averaged the president's approval rating, 46 percent approved of the president's job performance, while 50 percent disapproved.

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