Will 2020 be a good year for America?

January 03, 2020, 3:30 PM UTC

Most Americans think 2019 was a bad year for the world (51%), and less than half (39%) are optimistic for 2020.

The last decade was seen as marginally better for the world than 2019 was. About half the public in recent Economist/YouGov polls (52%) thinks the decade went well for the world. 

People are a bit more cheerful about their family, though. A majority say 2019 was a good year (70%) and decade (63%) for their family. Nearly half (48%) are “very optimistic” or “somewhat optimistic” about their family’s future in 2020.

Republicans evaluate 2019 far better than Democrats do when it comes to how both the world and their own families managed. Democrats feel better about the last decade; fewer Republicans evaluate the decade positively as see 2019 that way. Democrats may feel better about the past decade compared with the last year (and Republicans worse) because a Democrat (Barack Obama) was in the White House for seven of the last ten years. 

While Republicans also think better than Democrats do about the last year and the last decade in their family’s life, the gap between the parties when evaluating their families is much smaller than it is when they evaluate the world.

President Donald Trump is up for re-election in 2020. Only a third (36%) believe that will make politics more interesting – though most are sure it will make politics more negative (54%). Fewer think politics will get more interesting in the next decade (23%), but a plurality expects more negativity (39%) 

This is one of the few areas where Republicans and Democrats generally agree: a majority of Democrats (52%) and Republicans (59%) think political discussions will be more negative in 2020 However, Democrats are twice as likely (10%) to believe political discussion will become less negative.

Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to believe political discussion will become less negative in 2020

Americans are closely divided on what will happen in 2020, perhaps remembering the 2016 outcome, when Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but President Trump was elected with a majority in the Electoral College. A slim majority (52%) of registered voters believe the Democrat will win and 48 percent believe Trump will be re-elected. When asked how they expect to vote, 50 percent say they will vote for the Democratic nominee, while four in ten (40%) favor the President.

There are several areas of special concern looking ahead: the US position in the world and climate change. But both areas are dominated by large partisan divisions. Half the public (50%) says America became less respected in the world last year; most (58%) believe it has become less respected over the last decade. Most Republicans believe the US will become more respected by the rest of the world in 2020 (60%) and over the rest of the decade (32%), most Democrats disagree.

But partisan differences are also severe on the issue of climate change. Two in three Americans (68%) believe that climate change has affected the world at least somewhat in the last decade. More than four in ten (42%) say it has affected the world a great deal. Democrats are more than three times as likely as Republicans to believe that (54% vs. 19%), and a plurality of Republicans (39%) say it has affected the world “not at all.”

There is a similar pattern when people are asked how much climate change will affect the world in the next ten years. Democrats are more than three times as likely as Republicans to think it will have a great effect. Again, for Republicans, the most popular answer is that climate change will affect the world “not at all.” Most Republicans also expect no impact at all on their own families.

The Next Decade

The party difference is visible when the question of how important the issue of the environment is to Americans. 76 percent of Democrats, but just a quarter (25%) of Republicans say the issue of the environment is “very important.” 16 percent of Democrats call it their most important issue, behind only the issue of health care. Only 1 percent of Republicans say the same.

So when asked whether the United States is doing enough to combat climate change, Democrats say it is not by 61 percent to 16 percent. Republicans, by nearly the exact same margin (61% to 17%) think the US  is doing enough. More than eight in ten of those who say climate change has not affected the world at all say the U.S, has “done enough.” 

See the toplines and table results from this week’s Economist/YouGov poll about the decade and see the toplines and table results from last week’s Economist/YouGov poll about 2019

Image: Getty