Most Americans are optimistic about nation's future, poll says 85% say they're satisfied with their personal lives

October 21, 1998|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON -- Despite the recent political turmoil, most Americans are very pleased with the state of the union and are increasingly positive about the country's future and their own, according to a new national survey released yesterday by the Gallup Organization.

Americans were more optimistic than they have been at any of seven points in the past when the Gallup Organization made similar measurements, beginning in 1964. Most said they expect their lives to be better in five years than they are now.

Some 85 percent of Americans described themselves as generally satisfied with the way things were going in their personal lives. That number has risen steadily since the 1980s, Gallup experts said.

The polling organization surveyed 5,001 adults between April 23 and May 31. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

The poll was conducted before the international financial crisis disrupted the growth trend in the stock market, but after the Monica Lewinsky scandal rocked the White House and the nation.

Twenty-four percent of Americans describe themselves as "have-nots" who worry about household finances most or all of the time and see their money situation as worse than their parents', Gallup found.

That is an increase from a 1988 Gallup study in which 17 percent of those questioned described themselves as "have-nots."

The proportion of Americans describing themselves as "haves" also has increased since 1988 -- from 59 percent to 67 percent. There were increases in both categories because the proportions of those surveyed who saw themselves as neither or were uncertain declined.

More people today -- compared with 1990 -- believe the number of people who live in poverty is decreasing, while the proportion who are rich is increasing. Most of those questioned were reluctant to describe themselves as either rich or poor. Sixty-one percent said they were middle income, while just 12 percent described themselves as rich and 27 percent said they were poor.

Only about 1 in 7 Americans said they were saving enough for retirement, while 1 in 5 said they are not saving at all.

"The public clearly expects the government to be involved in helping to improve the situation of the 'have-nots' in society, mainly through education and job training," the study reported.

Pub Date: 10/21/98

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