As 2022 neared its end, YouGov conducted a survey asking Americans what they thought of the year, how it compares to the prior year, and their predictions about whether things will get better or worse in 2023 and beyond. While there’s slightly more positive sentiment than there was at the same time last year, many Americans have a gloomy outlook on the future of the country.
The largest share of Americans (39%) say their year was OK, while 24% say it was good. Another 8% say it was a great year for them personally. But for many, the year was bad (16%) or outright terrible (10%).
How do they think the country fared? Just 3% think it was a great year for the United States. Another 12% say it was a good year, while 25% deem it OK. Larger shares think it was a bad (28%) or terrible (25%) year for the country. However, this is a slight improvement from last year, when 35% thought it was a bad year and 30% deemed it terrible for the country.
Democrats have a much more positive view of the year compared to Republicans. While 26% of Democrats see the year as having been good or great for the country, just 9% of Republicans share this view. Comparing 2021 and 2022, there is a noticeable decrease in the percentage of Democrats who deemed the year bad or terrible for the country. In 2021, 16% said it was a terrible year for the country, while 9% said 2022 was. And while 34% of Democrats thought last year was bad, 24% said the same about 2022.
The largest share of Republicans believe 2022 was terrible for the U.S., at 37%. Among Independents, 31% agree, while just 9% of Democrats do.
Given the number of people who say it was a bad or terrible year, it’s not too surprising that 44% of Americans believe 2022 was one of the worst years in American history. About two-thirds of Republicans and 46% of Independents think it was one of the worst years in American history. Fewer Democrats (23%) agree. This could partially reflect recency bias, a phenomenon where respondents place more importance on more recent events.
Compared to 2021, fewer people believe 2022 was one of the worst years historically (44% in 2022 vs. 58% in 2021).
While 45% think the last 10-year period was about average when it comes to American history, 27% say the last decade was one of the worst in American history. Fewer (11%) say the last 10-year period was one of the best in American history.
In general, Americans see the prior 10 years as being better for them personally than for the country. They’re twice as likely to say it was a great decade for them personally (14%) than for the country (7%). They’re also more likely to classify the last decade as a good one for them vs. for the country, at 36% to 26%, respectively.
The survey also asked people to rate how things are going in the country on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is very bad and 10 is very good. More than half (55%) of Americans rate the country at a 5 or lower, with 14% saying it’s at a 1 out of 10.
People were also asked to rate how things were going in the U.S. 10 years ago. Americans have a more positive impression of the country in 2012: 70% say it was at a 6 or higher.
What about how things will be going in 10 years? Opinion is somewhat split: 47% give the 2032 version of the U.S. a 5 or lower while 53% rate it between 6 and 10.
While most Americans see their lives getting better (32%) or at least staying the same (38%) in the decade to come, they aren’t so sure about the country. Just 23% believe things will get better for the country in the next decade and 25% think the next decade will be about the same. About three in 10 (29%) think the next 10 years will be worse for the country.
Younger Americans are particularly optimistic about the upcoming decade. Four in 10 (42%) 18- to 29-year-olds say it’ll be better for them personally, as do 40% of 30- to 44-year-olds. Just 19% of people over 65 say the same.
Many Americans also are gloomy about how things will be beyond 2032. When asked about whether the country would be better or worse when children in the U.S. grow up, 41% say worse. Fewer say things will be about the same (19%) or better (18%).
Among people who are parents, there’s little difference: 42% of people who have ever been parents think today’s children will inherit a country that’s worse off than it is now, and 40% of everyone else agree.
Republicans are especially pessimistic, with a majority (53%) predicting things will be worse when today’s children grow up. Fewer Independents (45%) and Democrats (27%) say this.
Looking to the more immediate future, there seems to be some positive sentiment about how the year 2023 will go for people personally. Relatively few predict a bad (12%) or terrible (6%) year for themselves. Another 29% think the year will be OK, 28% think it will be good, and 13% say it will be great for themselves.
There’s a little less positive expectation regarding how the year will go for the country. Just 6% predict a great year, 18% think it will be good, and 22% think it will be OK. The same percentage (22%) think it will be a bad year and 19% predict 2023 will be a terrible year for the U.S.
Democrats (40%) are more likely than Independents (19%) or Republicans (12%) to predict that 2023 will be a good or great year for the country. Two-thirds (64%) of Republicans think 2023 will be a bad (32%) or terrible (32%) year for the U.S.
Methodology: This poll was conducted on December 1 - 5, 2022, among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.
Image: Adobe Stock (loreanto)