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A Glass Half Full or Half Empty: AARP Bulletin Optimism Poll

For several years now Americans have been bombarded with bad news regarding the downturn of the economy, high unemployment, the unprecedented swell of housing foreclosure, and highly charged political rancor.  

A recent AARP Bulletin survey designed to determine how optimistic or pessimistic individuals are about several key social issues found that, overall, adults age 18 and over are optimistic, and particularly so about their family and their health.  However, optimism about their finances and the country is lower than for family and health.

Respondents age 50 and older are more likely than their younger counterparts to be pessimistic about their health and their finances.

Most think there is likely to be a breakthrough for the treatment of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

This survey’s finding on optimism amidst this turmoil may support the views often expressed in times when America is faced with crises. That is, despite calamities and crises, on the whole as a people, Americans remain hopeful and resilient.

Key findings include:

  • More than three-quarters of the respondents say they are optimistic about their future in the next five years with regards to their family (86%), their health (78%), and their community (74%). They are less optimistic about their finances (65%) and the country (57%).
  • Respondents age 50 and older (16%) are twice as likely as those under age 50 years (8%) to be pessimistic (very or somewhat) about their future with regard to their health. Also, the percentage of those age 50 and older (28%) who are pessimistic regarding their finances is higher than among individuals younger than age 50 years (18%). 
  • Over half of the survey participants believe that within the next five years most people will be eating healthy foods (57%) and exercising regularly (52%). Less than half believe that most people will be cutting back on high-fat foods (45%).

This survey was fielded by GfK from October 22-24, 2010, using their OMNITEL omnibus service.  Telephone interviews were held with a nationally representative sample of 1,004 respondents of approximately 500 female and 500 male respondents ages 18 years and older.  For more information, please contact Helen Brown at 202-434-6172.