January 25th, 2011
04:15 PM ET

What's behind America's surge in optimism?


President Barack Obama walks along the colonnade from the Oval Office this morning. He is set to deliver his State of the Union address tonight at 9 p.m. ET. (PHOTO CREDIT: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As President Obama gets ready to deliver his State of the Union address in just a few hours, a new poll shows Americans are feeling better about the state of that union than they have in almost four years.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 43 percent of those surveyed say things are going well in the U.S. - that's up 14 points in just a month.

A majority - 56 percent - still say things are going badly. But that number is down sharply from 71 percent last month.

The poll shows college graduates and people in the Midwest are most optimistic. Also, urban and suburban Americans seem more optimistic than those in rural areas.

There's a partisan divide here too - with Democrats and Independents more likely to say things are going well than Republicans.

So why the sharp increase and why now?

Experts say part of the reason is the public's growing optimism about the economy.

But there are non-economic reasons at play here as well:

People are often more optimistic at the start of a new year. Other factors could include:Tthe more civil tone in political debate since the Tucson shootings, the fact that there wasn't a terror attack over the holidays, and the perception that the lame duck Congress actually accomplished some things in December.

Whatever the reason, we'll take it. And the rise in optimism means the president should be playing to a friendlier crowd tonight.

Here’s my question to you: What's behind America's surge in optimism?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: United States
January 25th, 2011
04:10 PM ET

Women politicians more effective than men?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Turns out you can add politics to the list of things that women do better than men. It's a long list.
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The Daily Beast reports on a new study that shows female politicians are among the most productive and persuasive ones in the country.

This research in the American Journal of Political Science is the first to compare the performance of male and female politicians. It shows women do a better job at securing pork for their home districts and shaping policy.

From 1984 to 2004, women politicians won about $50 million more a year for their districts than men did.

As for policy, women sponsored more bills and attracted more co-sponsors than their male counterparts. The female politicians' bills also made it further through the legislative process and got more media attention.

The authors say this is because women do a better job at "logrolling, agenda-setting, coalition building and other deal-making activities."

They suggest women make better politicians because they have to. Consider that women hold less than one in five of all national seats, so the ones who make it to Washington better be pretty good.

The study concludes that in order to overcome any bias against women in leadership roles, these female politicians have to work even harder to be seen as equals.

Sound familiar?

They call their study "The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect," a reference to the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. He was also one of the greatest of all time.

The comparison here is that because of racism during Robinson's era, black baseball players had to be better than whites to make it to the big leagues.

Here’s my question to you: Why are women politicians more effective than men?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?