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?

Ernie in Charlotte, North Carolina writes:
We're not so much optimistic as realistic. We all know that the Congress, the president et al will accomplish nothing; we're exhausted by the talk and have moved onto other things. We've come to accept a "new normal" of 9% unemployment, no health care, higher costs and taxes. More people have more passion about the Steelers versus the Packers coming up in a couple of weeks than about the State of the Union.

Paulette in Dallas, Pennsylvania writes:
I'm not buying it. Give it time. The other shoe will drop.

Sylvia in San Diego writes:
Nothing, get real! The people that were polled must work and live in Washington where all the jobs were created. The pollsters need to poll people in the big cities where the unemployment is over 10%. See how much optimism they will find there.

S.T. in Virginia writes:
Jack, Contributing to the surge in optimism is the rebound of the auto industry and better than expected results reported by companies such as Apple.

Ron writes:
Who in the world is optimistic? Not me.

Jerry in Toronto writes:
False hope, Jack. Sorry to have to say that, but it's the same old spin from political leaders that have raised people's optimism. The reality is America still has tough times ahead. Its debt is too high (and growing) and jobs are still flowing like water overseas. Nobody has put a cork in the bottle yet. Until America gets its ducks in a row this optimism will be short lived.

Greg in Texas writes:
Why all the optimism? Not a clue. However, since we are all feeling warm and fuzzy sitting together and such, maybe the Tea Party can join with the Green Party to form the Green Tea Party. They would be fiscally conservative, recycle and be healthier.

Filed under: United States
soundoff (125 Responses)
  1. Rick McDaniel

    Sorry, I haven't seen any true optimism, despite what the media reports.

    January 25, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  2. Rob from PA

    The only surge is the hype the media is giving Mr. Obama.

    January 25, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  3. David Alexandria VA

    Hope and change, Jack. The "hope" is from the steadily improving economy and it's bellweather, the stock market. The "change" is from the administration which no longer seems manically intent on Euro-sizing America with big, dominent government. In each case, people are optimistic that the worst is over. Oh, that they are right.

    January 25, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  4. Conor in Chicago

    There's a surge in optomism?

    January 25, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  5. Carl


    Your kiddding, right, what surge? We have the same old none listening talking heads that we had yesterday, nothing has changed and nothing will change until the corrupt talking heads feel the financial pain. I say lets get on with the melt down of America so something finally will be done.

    January 25, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  6. John from Alabama

    Jack: When people get tired of blaming things on others and start to hunt for solutions to life's problems; optimism blooms like a spring flower. When people see the light, and I am not talking about light at end of the tunne,l things look better. Positive speech and positive idea start like a snowball rolling down a hill. Get out of the way, if you are not part of the solution, and make way for a new day. Key word: solutions

    January 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  7. Herman Portland OR

    The GOP's stand on haulting the direction of the current administration and hope for fiscal dicipline.The hope for job growth and faith in our newly elected officials in Washington to bring this country back from the dead end road it was going down. Also hope for strong leadership in 2012 for America.

    January 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  8. Ms. Turner

    Maybe more Americans are realizing that we finally have a President that is actually Educated and compassionate about helping the AMERICAN PEOPLE as well as OUR GREAT COUNTRY. We have a great opportunity to get back on top if we could only come together, work together and most of all be patient. The state of affairs in America is seriously broken, and it takes good level headed mature leaders to get us going in the right direction. My one wish is that the talking heads would stop saying " creating debt for our grand children"... unfortunately, we have been inheriting debt for decades because of greedy politicians and ill- willed business men and women. Ms. Turner Indianapolis Indiana~

    January 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  9. Mysterious, Chicago

    People are realizing that all of that negativity is not working. Sorry, Sarah. Sorry, Beck. Sorry, sorry.

    January 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  10. Bob Kobs

    It is Mr. Obama's relentless work and determination. He has cleaned up America's image around the world, turned the economy from free fall to creating jobs again and, through it all, has managed to stay clear-headed in the midst of bigoted invective, bogus criticisms–he even managed to calmly united the country during grief.

    It is President Obama who is the only ADULT in the room.

    January 25, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  11. Bradley, Portland, OR

    Optimism is growing because the economy slowly seems to be getting better. Not fast enough, especially with unemployment, but it's way better than it was 2 years ago.

    Republicans may hate it, but Obama's stimulus plan actually seems to have worked.

    Now that Republicans control the budget instead of the Democrats, let's see if they can keep the economy's momentum going, or if they're going to get caught up with readings of the Constitution, symbolic repeals of health care, and other pointless fluff.

    January 25, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  12. Peg from N.Y.

    A flicker of hope in the economy, the newly elected and more civility.

    Americans may well be deciding that living by the Golden Rule is the best way to go.

    January 25, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  13. Reed from NYC

    Could it be directly related to the rise in prescription meds & antidepressants? Other than that, I'm not aware of any optimism.

    January 25, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  14. Jerry A - Toronto

    False hope, Jack. Sorry to have to say that but it's the same old spin from political leaders that have gotten peoples optimism up. The reality is America still has tough times ahead. It's debt is too high (and growing) and jobs are still flowing like water overseas. Nobody has put a cork in the bottle yet. Until America gets it's ducks in a row this optimism will be short lived.

    January 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  15. Pisher from Harrisburg


    America has always been an optimistic country...People come to America to live the American Dream. There is no surge in optimism, simply a recovery of optimism after after extremists from both sides tried to take over, entangle us and lost. America has been through many travails and will get through the mess of difficulty that was created when people tried to live the American dream in extreme....We were a little to optimistic which made us unrealistic...We thought we could spend more than we earned and produced. We became victims of our optimism. But we are a resiliant people and are coming to our optimistic senses.

    January 25, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  16. Luci

    I think because things are getting better, not for everyone, but for most people. I don't know how the jobs can get much better until the wealthy bring them back to our country. They were all shipped out eight years ago, so they didn't do us any favors by doing that. Our President is doing the best he can for us. Give him time.

    January 25, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  17. Ron

    Who in the world is optimistic? Not me.

    January 25, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  18. Larry from Georgetown, Tx

    Who's optimistic? The housing market is terrible unless you have lots of money to buy. Costs are going up 2 to 3% yet the interest rates are close to zero. And the news people say that were going to have another housing crisis this year. I'm not optimistic, I'm realistic.

    January 25, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  19. Paul, Parry Sound, Ontario

    I think people are starting to "get" Barack Obama and understand that he's one of the best things to happen to the country in a long time.

    January 25, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  20. ken, atlantic city, nj

    The surge in optimism is from handouts like income tax cuts, payroll tax cuts, extended unemployment benefits, business tax cuts, farm subsidies, corporate welfare, and free medicaid for 16 million; all of which are borrowed from the federal reserve. Optimism about 2 wars, more homeless, more poverty, more foresclosures, $4.00 gallon gasoline, more job cuts, no colas, increased health care costs, increased bank fees, increased credit card rates, falling home values, and 16,000 murders every year meets the definition of voter insanity.

    January 25, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  21. Ed from California

    What... has VISA/MasterCard issued millions of "new" credit cards out w/huge limits? Are the Banks and Wall st with the Republicans blessings (again) letting anyone buy a home? All I'm hearing is T-A-L-K, and no action. If American corporations start developing "new" technologies and start hiring. What is keeping these.....new innovations from being developed and made in foreign lands?
    Maybe you'll see real optimism, when America starts making cell phones or ipads here instead of in China. And with the Republicans talking about ending and stealing all of our Social Security and Medicare that's hard (real) money, and using that money to help offset welfare payments to the super rich (tax breaks) or to our corporations (in China w/tax breaks), how can anyone be optimistic? America has to get back to work, building things..........but, if The Republicans are issuing new credit cards to folks w/no credit.........then I'm going out and buying a new 3D TV!

    January 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  22. Conor in Chicago

    If there is a surge in optimism it is because the Republicans just took the House and, as a rule, Republicans are the only people who answer pollsters. Democrats tend to me young, on the move, and not really concerned with what a poll is going to say as we understand how misleading they are-we've spent our whole lives not believing in their validity. Republicans on the other hand are rich and stay home and have time to answer survey questions. are retired and have nothing to do, or are extremely religious and are instructed to participate by their religious leaders.

    Any “optimism” out there is simply a reflection of who takes polls and how they feel-not how this nation feels.

    January 25, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  23. Steve, Clifton, VA

    We are starting to see consistent signs that the economy is improving slowly but surely; By having a different party party controlling each house , Congress now has the presence of some needed checks and balances on each party; For the first time in a long while, both parties are talking about the need for civility after President Obama's eloquently delivered spot on appeal to the country to unite for the common good of America after the Tucson incident. All of these things working in tandem has given the American people hope for the future.

    January 25, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  24. Sylvia from San Diego

    Nothing, get real!!! The people that were polled must work and live in Washington where all the jobs were created... The pollsters need to poll people in the big cities where the unemployment is over 10%. See how much optimism they will find there.....

    January 25, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  25. Mr. D

    As they say: "time heals all wounds." Or pehaps it's human nature to be optimistic. Or it might be "cycles." Good times come and go. Most likely it's people believing the worst is over and it's time to get moving.

    January 25, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  26. Jill Spencer

    The surge in optimism is due to the fact that we almost have no where to go but up!! People are starting to confuse us with Australia as the country that is really DOWN UNDER!

    January 25, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  27. Jenna

    What's behind America's surge in optimism?

    The fact that all that the Demcrats worked on and actually got through is coming through thus resulting in more jobs. But this will be short lived because the Republicans will ruin this because Americans will see once again that they are not working for us, but BIG BUSINESS.

    Roseville CA

    January 25, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  28. Greg in Arkansas

    Isn't it obvious? It has been over 60 days since the 27/7 Negative Political adds STOPPED!!!

    Without the constant reminder from political candidates of how bad things are in our country, people have a real chance to be optomistic.

    I suspect that this newfound optimism will disappear as the 2012 cycle heats up and the negative attack ads return......too bad, guess we should enjoy it while we can.

    January 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm |

    President Obama, President Obama, President Obama. Despite how he has been treated, for the most part, he has remained on the high road. Called an unamerican, not born in America, not worthy of his title, he has remained steadfast. What an inspiration to children in America. thise who live in the slums, uneducated etc. Can look to our president for hope. In the end, the children will profit most from how Americans have treated our President. they can see how to to stand fast against nastiness.
    grandma teacher from Va.

    January 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  30. ernie shankles, charlotte, nc

    We're not so much optimistic as realistic. We all know that the Congress, the President, et al will accomplish nothing; we're exhausted by the talk and have moved on to other things. We've come to accept a "new normal" of 9% unemployment, no health care, higher costs and taxes. More people have more passion about the Steelers versus the Packers coming up in a couple of weeks than about the state of the union. We know the Defense Department is going to keep getting every penny they ask for; Academy cadets cost six times what an OCS officer costs; B (as in billion dollar)1 Bombers fight the terrorists and we take off our shoes in the airports. We've given up and if that passes for "optimism" then it's the "new optimism" that goes with "so what".

    January 25, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  31. Paul P.

    I think most people believe the economic troubles have bottomed out and there is no impending double dip recession and If they haven't lost their jobs by now, they're likely safe. I think they hear the government hinting they're aware of the areas key for future prosperity, such as deficit reduction and investments in research and education and feel hopeful for progress. The good feeling is tenuous though, and we're one bad speech or deadlocked policy battle away from pessimism again.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  32. Dave, Orlando, FL

    It means that someone put something in the water that’s making all those “optimists” delusional. Unless a dysfunctional government can fix itself, big business embraces ethics, financial institutions do what is right and the healthcare industry begins to care (fat chance all), our children and grandchildren are still going to be stuck with unsustainable debt . I see nothing optimistic about that.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  33. sonny chapman

    Psychiatrists say you always come out of a depression–it might be through suicide, but a depressed person will always snap out & hopefully not relapse.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  34. Karen, Idaho

    American optimism has been so low that there is nowhere else to go but up. We want to believe that things are improving and we just keep hoping for improvement. The more compassionate vibes from Washington are behind the current optimistic feelings. Lets hope this isn't just a phoney show on the part of the politicians and that they will follow through with this new attitude of cooperation..

    January 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  35. Gail, Plano TX

    I was filled with optimism the day Barack Obama was elected President of these United States. My optimism has not waned. I trust the country in his able hands. Perhaps, others are beginning to realize that we should thank our lucky stars that he occupies the White House. He is without a doubt, the best thing to happen to this nation in a very long time.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  36. Paulette in Dallas,PA

    I'm not buying it. Give it time. The other shoe will drop.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  37. greg magnolia texas

    why all the optimism? not a clue however, since we are all feeling warm and fuzzy sitting together and such, maybe the tea party can join with the green party to form the green tea party. they would be fiscally conserative recycle and be healthier.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  38. Greg, Bremerton WA

    Jack, I am not optimistic. Here's why:
    1. My house is worth less;
    2. Gas prices are rising;
    3. Our stock portfolio has not yet recovered;
    4. Our government is still wasting our tax dollars both domestically and interanationally and our public debt is astronomical;
    5. The IRS Code is so confusing that I dread April;
    6. Our government is TELLING me 'you have to buy health insurance" infringing upon us yet again;
    7. No increase in our retirement incomes; and,
    8. There's no light at the end of the tunnel i'm looking through.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  39. Michael in Albuquerque, NM

    The surge in optimism has nothing to do with politics or the stock market. I believe it has to do with the surge in new beers from microbreweries and brewpubs. There is nothing better than fresh made stout on tap. It puts me in a happy mood every time.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  40. Alex in Bremerton, WA

    Americans have historically been an optimistic people. The economy continues to incrementally improve our material well being and a toning down of negative hyperbole in the wake of the Tucson shooting can only help our collective psyche. Seriously, does anybody really believe that criticism of a Sarah Palin Facebook post will result in the end of the republic?

    January 25, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  41. Mike S., New Orleans

    Perhaps even the die hard naysayers are now admitting that our country is better off now than we were two years ago.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  42. Bizz, Quarryville Pennsylvania

    I am cautiously optimistic. I'm starting to see improvements in the economy and republicans and democrats wanting to tone things down. Along with people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin popularity decreasing also makes me cautiously optimistic that we are finally getting on the right track. But I'm very aware that with the next election on the horizon things can get pretty nasty quick.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  43. Jim


    Hey, we have no where to go but up. Could be worse, could be raining.

    Jim in Denver, CO

    January 25, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  44. katiec Pekin, IL

    Well, Jack, we are so sick of doom and gloom, we will grab any glimmer of hope. The economy does seem to be improving, the raping of the American people by insurance companies has been put on hold, and, although, slow, unemployment is decreasing.
    That, combined with a leader that we know puts us and our country first, gives us all hope.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:30 pm |

    tampa, fl i live in a city that has several panhandlers on every corner and actually in the streets knocking on windows for cash. we also have a "declared" unemployment rate of 12%. our state leads the country in home repo's and businesses are closing right and left. optimism? like p.t. barnum said,"there's a sucker born every minute".

    January 25, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  46. jim

    jack, the overall optimism you refer to is probably due to the fact that the Republicans gained control of the house and that segment of society that supports them actually believe that they're going to keep t heir promise and dramatically cut spending and balance the budget again. If you believe that, I have some swampland in the middle of the Sahara desert to sell you. If they had been serious about cutting the deficit, they wouldn't have given the most wealthy a giant tax break and put so much time in repealing health care bill. They'd also have concentrated on creating jobs, which they promised that they'd do. Nothing changes in washington.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  47. Bob H

    Q: What's behind America's surge in optimism?
    A: The results of the survey depends upon who is paying for and benefiting from the polling.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  48. james in greenville nc

    Maybe we feel we have reached bottom and there is nowhere to go but up. Or maybe we have been beat down so long we are numb.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  49. Terry- Greensburg, IN "Hoosier Hillbilly"

    As President Obama gets ready to deliver his State of the Union address in just a few hours, 9 pm is past my bedtime.

    The poll shows college graduates and people in the Midwest are most optimistic. And WHAT DO THEY KNOW. What have they experienced in the last 30 years!

    January 25, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  50. Gary H. Boyd

    Jack, I think your observation about folks feeling pretty good at the start of a new year is the reason. Reality is 2010 was a bad time in America and Americans, by nature, are not inclined to take things lying down for long. The "enough is enough" attitude has gotten us off the carpet many times before and I genuinely believe such is exactly the case as we begin 2011. Americans are strong and the folks in Washington need to start realizing that or we'll throw 'em out just as we did in November..

    Gary in Scottsdale, Arizona

    January 25, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  51. Joe R - Houston, TX

    The only optimism I see is coming from people who can't balance a check book.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  52. Ron in Ohio

    The power of suggestion. When the media says things are tough, people believe it. If the media says things are picking up, people believe it. If convinced things are tough they hunker down. If convinced things are good, they start smiling. The party that regained power in the House know this and use it well. People believe what they are told and will even give power back to the very people who caused the problems. Fortunately, what people believe can be positive. The economy is picking up we say, therefore, it will.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  53. RichP, easton, pa

    I'm an independent, don't group me with democrats or republicans, so far they are just two sides of the same coin. When I start seeing the federal government reigned in and reduced in size so we are no longer the single biggest employer in the world I might be more optimistic..

    January 25, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  54. Jon Salsbury

    It looks like the Republicans may be serious about getting the nation out of debt and keeping the job-killing, freedom-squashing policies of the current administration from taking effect. And the president is beginning to sound like a conservative Republican. That's why the optimism. The tea party is impacting politics in a very positive way.

    Lima, Ohio

    January 25, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  55. Steve

    Optimism breeds the same. Things are getting better, albeit at a slower pace than we all wanted to see. With some of the changes made in education, financial reform and the llke, troop reduction in Iraq, there appears to be a firmer foundation for growth for your country. Tou will emerge from this wiser, stronger and better than ever. You have chosen to shed the extreme Liberalism in your congress and have empowered the extreme Conservatism. You have a strong framework for Afganistan being drawn down, an equally strong foundation for taking care of your sick..Please do not allow the fringe to dictate to the center any more, and things will be fine...

    January 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  56. Ann from Charleston SC

    For me the reason for optimism lies in the glimmers that maybe, just maybe our government is ready to pull itself together and work to solve the problems of the country rather than scoring points. The Republicans, the Democrats and Independents all have viewpoints with which I agree. They need to find common ground to get us back on track economically while at the same time establishing a level playing field on which all people can achieve their dreams.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  57. thom richer

    Propaganda. Two weeks prior to the last election it was touted by the Right that the economy was spiraling downward and the Liberal agenda had done nothing to strengthen it have no plans to do so, and Obama'a policies were failed. Then they regained the House and all of a sudden, things are better. However, the fact is that without job numbers increasing drastically, which they have not, the economy cannot recover. So, it must be good old political and corporate propaganda.

    Thom Richer
    Negaunee, MI

    January 25, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  58. honest John in Vermont

    I don't see people with much economic optimism. What I do see are plenty of people hopeful that this year will be better than the last 2 1/2 years. More hope than optimism in my neighborhood.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  59. Rich McKinney, Texas

    I think it has a lot to do with having two different parties in control of Washington. Now that the republicans control the congress and the democrats the Senate people feel like it is not such a runaway government with democrats controlling everything. People see the possibility for hope once again. It may just be an illusion but still people feel better.

    January 25, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  60. Ray in Knoxville

    Jack, Americans are generally an optimistic people. We've gone through this before and have come out of tough economic times. Now that we are seeing improvement on the economic front, our optimism is also growing.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  61. Thomas, Chicago

    Everything you said plus the fact that the press is not as antagonistic to the progress and success the democrats have accomplished for America.

    You are absolutely right about the republicans still whinning and refusing to accept the fact that America is fantastic without them.

    Now that they are in power they are too happy to keep having their "temper tantrum."

    January 25, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  62. Steve

    Optimism always makes gains with education and re-tooling, but on the whole this ship is sinking. The direction this country has taken in the past decade is the course plotted by its bankers and its leading politicians, not its most innovative and forward thinking crowd in the neighborhood.

    Upper NYS, Massachusetts, now Maine...

    January 25, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  63. Eric

    It is tax season so of course there is a surge in optimism. Once a household spends their tax rebate on playing "catch up" on late mortgage and auto payments reality will set back in. Once this happens the optimism that you speak of will be long gone. It amazes me how people can be so cavalier about our economic conditions.


    January 25, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  64. Gary - Woodhaven, Michigan

    Hopefully this aura is not for just a fleeting minute.

    Hope is seeing new possibility, and even the charade of civility among the leaders of this land is viewed by us as new possibility. A chance to move forward instead of being stuck in the same old manure.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  65. Nancy, Tennessee

    Ugly rhetoric for political reasons is behind us now since the President's speech in Tucson. His ratings have gone up because the American people listened to what he had to say and remembered why he is Commander-in-Chief. Confidence in Obama means confidence in government and a more optimistic outlook for our future.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  66. Annie, Atlanta

    We’re programmed to believe that if Wall Street is doing well, all is well with the world, facts be darned.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  67. Ken in NC

    The surge in my optimism comes directly from my getting tired of listening to Republicans say "NO".

    January 25, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  68. Kevin

    The fact that Bush isn't in office

    January 25, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  69. Susan from Idaho

    We haven't heard a lot from Palin lately, that's a lot to be hopeful and grateful for.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  70. Ralph Spyer

    The optimism is all propagandist , we still have 10% unenployed, we still have a federal government printing money to stay afloat, we still have two wars, we still have ten million illegals, the states are bankrupt, and China is our banker. WHAT OPTIMISM ?

    January 25, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  71. D

    because half of the news and politicians are not in campaign mode to scare people into voting for them.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  72. Jack - Lancaster, Ohio

    Mr. Cafferty:

    I do not see a surge here locally in optimism. Any surge must be just an attribute assumed by the survey so how many people in that opinion survey by CNN were there? I guess that there is no margin of error because it was a survey and not a scientific pole? I do not plan to watch the state of the union, it has never been such and I doubt it will be so tonight. There is too much massage in the message, too much marketing, too little political courage. Goodnight, and good luck.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  73. John Morrison

    I wish I could answer your question, but I can't. I have 0 optimism about the state of our union.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  74. steve - virginia beach

    The surge is probably from the New World Order crowd after Obama allowed the Chineese to walk all over us then proclaim them to be our friends.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  75. Brent Ashcroft

    It's the fact that Republicans took over the house and gained seats in the Senate.

    Brent from Idaho

    January 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  76. Jim J

    Jack, Hello...Numbers up are since December? It is obviously the mid-term elections, and the election of Republicans. Optimism has been on the rise since the Republicans bagen leading in the polls. Just look at the Dow...

    January 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  77. russ

    We the people own the House, a good piece of the Senate and have only 2 years remaining to rid America of Obama. That's it!

    January 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  78. Matthew Copus

    You're interviewing sane Americans. I don't understand these polls and how they offset the NATURAL optimism that we all carry through our day to day lives. The media plays on our fears and gets people riled up, we're gonna be alright.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  79. George

    Having someone smart at the helm instills confidence which leads to optimism.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  80. John in Columbus

    We have seen how far pessimism and political divide can take us as a country. Once you hit rock bottom there is only one way to go, and that is up.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  81. Diane Dagenais Turbide

    Good day Jack,

    all of the above is responsible for the rise of optimism in the country and the realization as a country that we have been through tough times, the sky is not falling and we can pull ourselves back up!

    January 25, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  82. Dennis north Carolina

    All the lies that have filled the general public's brains have made them feel silly.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  83. Dylan Bryant

    It's simple, Jack. The surge in optimism was caused by the premeire of Jersey Shore. Americans saw all those idiots on there and went, "Hey, maybe we're not that bad off after all".

    January 25, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  84. Scott Stodden

    We As Americans Are Very Optimistic About This Year Just Look At All The Improvements That Have Happened Since President Obama Became President! We Now All Health Care For Everyone, Financial Reform So That Big Banks And Wall Street Are Held Responsible, Gays Finally Don't Have To Hide Who They Are Anymore, Jobs Are Being Created, And So Much More.... President Obama Is The Man 4 More Years Baby!

    Scott Stodden (Freeport,Illinois)

    January 25, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  85. Dick Vaughan

    The surge is due to the Ni\ovember election and the thought that the new breed of American politicians will finally inject common sense into how this country is governed.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  86. Bill Wilkins

    It is no coincidence that the surge in optimism is happening at the same time that Democrats have given up exclusive control of Congress. We feel uneasy when one party controls both the White House and Congress.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  87. lucy Sheldon

    I believe the results of the last election and the change in the majority in Congress contributes to more optimism in our country

    January 25, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  88. Karl in Mich

    Yes, things are getting better and everyone should be more optimistic, but a lot of it is the fact since the Tucson shootings the rhetoric isn't constantly reminding some that there are things to hate about the current administration. Many of my fellow Americans forget who to hate and why if they aren't reminded daily and thank goodness those reminders have been far and few between and should disappear completely for the good of the country.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  89. chaney Louisiana

    Maybe the optimism has to do with the fact that the American people have weathered many storms and just cant be held down indefinately.....we always bounce back even when we have a constant barrage of negitive pundits drumming doomsday in our heads, we find a way to bounce back.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  90. Kim Smith

    Enjoy it while you can, the G.O.P. will soon be up their old scams and we'll wake up more broke than before.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  91. Zachary Daley

    I feel that the increase in optimism is due to an almost monkey see monkey due outlook on life. There is the people out in the US that started to save and now that some of the interest rates have gone down slightly in some states the people have been saving are now returning to purchases so the rest of the population is following suit. I also feel that it has some to do with tax season being right on top of us and people are realizing that the interest rates have dropped slightly in some states so they are banking on a decent return from the IRS and therefore they are also spending more causing a more optimistic population in general.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  92. Mitch Dworkin - Dallas, Texas

    The two main things that are behind America's surge in optimism are some legislation being passed in the lame duck congress and Obama's speech in Tucson, AZ. These two things are temporarily affecting how people are thinking right now. However if Obama caves on entitlement cuts in exchange for Republican votes when it comes to raising the debt ceiling and if the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are not touched as a part of the deal, then Obama in my opinion will start to lose his base and much of middle America very quickly.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  93. Jerry, San Diego, Ca

    Optimism? I believe you are using the wrong word here. Hope! Hope is the word you're looking for. When you're tried and scared with nothing left to believe in. All you have left is HOPE! When all else fails Hope is what's left.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  94. Mary Larsen

    The Republicans took over the House of Representatives, so we know that there will be much less of a left leaning agenda and a lot more compromise. This gives a voice to those of us who have a more conservative point of view.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  95. Mike - North Carolina

    Apparently, ignorance is bliss.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  96. Blaine, Austin TX


    You've done a fine job dancing around the big elephant in the room. Come on. It's the outcome of November 2010 election: The historic defeat of Democrats, not only in Congress, but throughout the States, Countys and Cities in these United States. The voters have spoken and a new direction in Government is underway.

    Austin, TX

    January 25, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  97. Graham

    The reason for optimism is the lack of an election cycle. The absence of being bombarded daily by negative campaign ads and empty promises by candidates let the American people to see through the fog and allows government work better and do the job they were sent there to do!

    January 25, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  98. Gary in Pa

    How about the fact that after the November "shellacking" by the Republicans, the Obama Administration and the Democrats in Congress are getting the message from the American People. The demonizing of the Republican Party and business the past two years is not working. In order for this country to grow and create jobs, the Democrats are clueless.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  99. Ben

    The discord in the GOP is likely playing a major part. With birthers, violently provocative rhetoric, and Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann leading the mama bear charge, the Republican party has been losing ground fast over the past two years.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  100. Tom (Atlanta)

    I think the people feel empowered by the shellacking of government in November. This has been reinforced by what appears to be greater cooperation and hostility between parties and between the administration and business. Further, reference to shrinking government, shrinking the deficit and empowerment of the stated is encouraging to majority of the people. Now the government must deliver or this time next year we'll see this positive attitude disappear in a New York minute.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  101. Jerry from Ma.

    We are more optimistic because there is hope now that the republicans have some control over spending,before that we had runaway negative feelings that seemed never ending.The more government in our lives makes us less happy,the hope for less of it makes us happy.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
  102. Edmund from Los Angeles

    After the horror of Tucson, seeing the country come together as Americans above all the other somewhat artificial or trivial divisions was awe inspiring. Even more inspiring since then has been the honest and admirable efforts of people from both Repiblican and Democratic parties to tone down to their rhetoric. Also, much to the president's credit, the televised memorial service allowed President Obama to do what we elected him to do – provide steady leadership through dark, fearful times. There is optimism because it feels like years of loud shouting have abruptly ended, at least momentarily, and real discussion with able leadership can finally begin.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  103. Gigi Oregon

    I think it could be for many reasons and not just a few to be tied down. The sadness of Tucson has made us a bit more aware of whose been naughty and who's been nice in politics. If I don't like what is going on in Washington in the next year, I'll know which band wagon to join. If I don't see change in Washington I'll know who to blame. And the name of the game is jobs, jobs, and jobs. And don't mess with my Social Security. If you want to take a chance "opt out" but don't come crying thirty or forty years later. I paid in and I plan to collect. And if there is any cutting to do start with the socialized government wages and benefits for our leaders.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  104. Langston

    Optimism? The poll numbers must not include children because I can assure you that no single child is optimistic about their future considering their piggy banks will never see a dime due to our insolvency.


    January 25, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  105. Mark.....in Houston

    We have been flooded with so many months of gloom, doom, anger, hate and opinionated garbage from some of the "news media" that just possibly more and more of us are just don't listen to this trash anymore.

    Instead we go about our day doing the best we can with whatever our situation is....and are starting to feel pretty good about ourselves and the results..

    January 25, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  106. Michael Armstrong Sr. Tx.

    What surge there's no surge its only a figment of CNN's imagination only because the presidents ratings went up seven points the people are just as disgusted as the were a month ago .

    January 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  107. Adam Simi Valley, CA

    Everything is still awful, but I am more optimistic because the Dems can no longer ram through their agenda and play their parlimentary games. Now the Dems and Repubs can hold hands, smile together and compromise on just how bleak they want to make our future.
    Then again it may also just be the return of American Idol.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  108. Jeff in Minnesota

    Not a clue Jack. I'd like to believe that because of what happened in Tuscon started people to engage their brain before putting their mouth in gear. But I'm not sure that is the case. Only time will tell.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  109. Kerrisue in ATL

    One thing is for certain, the news media have changed their "angles" a bit in the last 6 months, both at the national and local levels. Peggy Noonan wrote some conciliatory things last week, too, and I appreciate that about her. Americans are lead by the mood of the media content. I hope the media fulfill that role responsibly.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  110. Bobby E.Lahmon

    Things really are getting better despite the fact that President Obama hardly ever gets any of the credit for it bottom line is a lot of people are just plan fed up with the sore looser fault finding whinny attitudes of the republicans

    January 25, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  111. luke

    Can you say "Social Engineering"?

    January 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  112. KDS Irvine, CA

    I would not say theres "optimism" right now but "relief" because the Bush Tax Cuts were extended another 2 years. We were all worried that out taxes were going to go up which would have slowed down our economy's recovery. And besides its a new year so we're a little cheerful these days.

    But the glamor of a new year is about worn off now, and were back to reality. I just hope this year is a little better than the last 2 years.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  113. Sam Dallas

    Yes all is not well in the country, but that has not translated into total downfall of the United States of America. Tea party movement has done its best in creating fear of America being taken over and destroyed, but as the dust of those lies settles, Americans still see that their country is standing tall as one and indivisible nation.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  114. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    The word depression is enough to make anyone optimistic especially when it never happened.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  115. rex in portland

    The surge in optimism is a perception by the press. The people (of for and by which are supposed to BE the government) are still being

    led by the propagandists

    led by Olbermann on the left and O'Reilly on the right

    led by their respective employers

    led by their respective investors' parent companies

    led by greed for profit..

    Follow the leader "The American Way". Us people aren't optimistic – we already gave up.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  116. Alvin

    Optimism is an illusion. More and more people are dreadful of the future. The polls taken that give this illusion of optimism, are obviously manipulated. I guess if congress and the wall street journal and any other piece of literature that states a mood or feeling of the people, then of course it must be true. Unfortunately, the big bankers said everything was o.k., and it wasn't. GMC said they were o.k., and they weren't. Foreclosures have grown, depending where you live. BP said the oil spill was under control and it never was. Unemployment is holding steady at 9%, and in some places it is growing. Job wages and pensions are shrinking. If the polls say we are optimistic then I guess reality don't count. Did we poll wall street for this analysis?

    January 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  117. Paul in West Virginia

    The finding that Democrats and Independents are more likely to say that things are going well is telling. Regardless of the accomplishments of the Obama administration, it seems Republicans will always denigrate his leadership. It is as if they are convinced that Republicans, and Republicans alone, will truly act in the best interest of the American people and this nation.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  118. Dee in New Paris Ohio

    I would love to think it is because more Americans really believe things are getting better, and have some facts to back up their thinking.

    But unfortunately what I think is the real cause is that the people have once again been hornswoggled by our fearless leaders!

    January 25, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  119. Greg in Arkansas

    sn't it obvious? It has been over 60 days since the 24/7 Negative Political adds STOPPED!!!

    Without a constant reminder from political candidates of how bad things are in our country, people have a real chance to be optomistic.

    I suspect that this newfound optimism will disappear as the 2012 election cycle heats up and the negative attack ads return......too bad, guess we should enjoy it while we can

    January 25, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  120. Michael

    Americans want to feel better. So do sick people, We've been sick as a nation for too long, and rhetoric and hope are the only medicine we've had for a while. Giffords' extraordinary recovery is an eloquent metaphor for what we should do as a nation.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  121. Norm

    I would like to know what is behind the surge myself? It's astonishing! I can't think of a reason for it.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  122. Remo, from beautiful downtown Pflugerville Texas

    When you've hit bottom, there is only "up". I'm not sure there is anything to be optimistic about. Home sales are still flat here, and jobs are extremely hard to find. I really don't care what Obama says tonight that's going to be any different from the dribble he's uttered before.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  123. Liz in AZ

    Optimism? Take off your rose tinted glasses.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  124. Arnold MI

    Trickle Down economics is starting hit the lower income levels and the economy should begin to grow, but with too much corporate profits going to Wall Street, inflation will begin to set in after a couple of years and the Federal Reserve will once again have to raise interest rates and we will head for another recession, Again, etc., etc., etc., etc. We never seem to learn, do we?

    January 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  125. Martin Vernon

    The decrease in troops over seas, and our agreements with China and USSR.

    January 25, 2011 at 5:59 pm |