The holidays are traditionally a time where we renew our optimism about the future. Gatherings with friends and family, festive meals and sparkling decorations are all powerful elixirs to the wear-and-tear of daily life. A new ABC/WaPo poll, however, shows that this year the holiday spirit is powerless to boost the public's mood. Almost half of Americans, in fact, are fearful about their own lives in the new year.
44% of Americans report they are fearful about what the new year holds in store for their lives. It's the highest recording ever in the poll. At the start of the decade, just 16% of Americans were fearful about the coming year, while 80% were hopeful. This year just 53%, barely a majority, are hopeful about their personal lives in the new year.
No doubt much of this pessimism is attributable to the weak economy. More than 3 out of 4 Americans, 76%, believe the economy is still in recession. Even among those who believe the economy, as it relates to their personal finances, is recovering, three-quarters say the recovery has been weak.
And, fears over the "fiscal cliff" are also weighing on the public's mind. Almost half of Americans do not believe Obama and Congress will secure a deal to avoid the cliff. Among these people, 58% are fearful about their personal lives in the new year.
But, the public's gloom goes far beyond fears about their personal finances or the economy. 56% of Americans are fearful about the world in general in the new year. This is the highest level since the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Only 40% of Americans are hopeful about the state of the world.
The continuing economic troubles in Europe and rapidly growing unrest in the Middle East all point to hurricane-force headwinds for the world next year. The murder of our Ambassador in Libya, the lack of progress in Afghanistan and deteriorating situations in Egypt and Syria all arise out of the feckless leadership of Obama's foreign policy.
Just as Americans' worries about the state of the world reach a record high, Obama's entire foreign policy team is set to reboot. In the coming months, there will be new Secretaries of State, Defense, Treasury and a new Director of the CIA. For some number of weeks and months at the start of the new year, America will have no leadership at the top of its foreign policy team.
It is very possible that, at some point next year, all three of the most important cabinet agencies – indeed, the original three, could be effectively vacant at the same time. No wonder the public is gloomy.