Americans' 2018 Predictions: Foreign Strife, Strong Economy
by Alyssa Davis
- Eight in 10 Americans predict a year of international discord in 2018
- Slight majority predict economic prosperity
- Views are split on whether U.S. power in the world will increase
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As Americans look ahead to 2018, eight in 10 predict
it will be a troubled year filled with international discord rather than
peace. The public is more optimistic about the economy, with a slight
majority anticipating a year of economic prosperity. Americans split evenly
on whether U.S. power in the world will increase or decline.
The pessimism about the nation's chances for peace in 2018 is likely
related to the ongoing conflict with North Korea over its nuclear capabilities,
prominent terrorist attacks at home and abroad, and discord with Russia
about its possible interference in the 2016 election. The poll was conducted
Dec. 4-11, concurrent with President Donald Trump's Dec. 6 announcement
that the U.S. would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem but before
the decision sparked a vote of condemnation at the United Nations.
Optimism about economic prosperity reflects signs that point to a strengthening
economy, such as record-high stock prices, low unemployment and Americans'
increased confidence in the economy.
While political and economic events shape Americans' predictions for
the year ahead, partisanship also plays a role. With the GOP controlling
the White House and Congress, Republicans are significantly more likely
than Democrats to expect peace, economic prosperity and increased U.S.
power in the world in 2018. This is a reversal from the predictions Americans
made five years ago for 2013, when Democrats were more optimistic than
Republicans during Barack Obama's presidency.
Predictions for Peace Internationally Lower Than Usual
Americans are generally pessimistic about international peace and have
been more likely to say that the coming year will be a troubled one, rather
than peaceful, in all but one of the 13 times Gallup has asked the question
over the past 57 years. The lone exception was the projection for 1960.
Still, the 19% of Americans who expect 2018 to be peaceful is on the low
end of Gallup's trend. The only two years when Americans were less
likely to expect peace were when they looked ahead to 1966 (11%) during
the Vietnam War and to 1980 (14%) in the early days of the Iranian hostage crisis.
Economic Predictions on the Higher End of Trend
Americans historically have tended to be pessimistic about economic prosperity
when thinking about the year ahead. The 52% of Americans who predict economic
prosperity for 2018 is one of only five instances across the 17 times
Gallup has asked the question when Americans have been more positive than
negative about the economy. However, Americans are less hopeful now than
they were at those four other times: in 1965 and 1966 amid a period of
economic strength and in 1998 and 1999 during the dot-com boom.
Still, Americans' current economic forecast is relatively bright, considering
that optimism on this measure has been as low as 7% -- and that was when
Americans were asked about 1974, during the start of a recession and oil crisis.
Predictions for U.S. Power in the World Below Average
While about half of Americans (49%) expect the U.S. to increase its power
in the world in 2018, this is lower than in 14 of the 17 years Gallup
has asked the question. Americans are more optimistic now than they were
when making a prediction for 2013, after the attack on the U.S. consulate
in Benghazi, Libya. The other exceptions were for 1974 and 1976, as the
Watergate scandal was unfolding and during the ongoing energy crisis.
The percentage predicting the U.S. would increase its power in the year
ahead rose as high as 84% when Americans looked ahead to 1963, after President
John F. Kennedy had successfully defused the Cuban missile crisis.
In the context of Gallup's trends, Americans' expectations for
the U.S. economy in 2018 are more optimistic than usual, while predictions
for international peace and the United States' power in the world
are below average. These findings mirror Americans' evaluations of
Trump's handling of the economy, which are more positive than their views on his handling of foreign affairs
and the situation with North Korea.
Trump and the Republican Party will certainly attempt to use Americans'
economic optimism to their advantage heading into the 2018 congressional
midterm elections by emphasizing positive economic news. However, key
to this approach will be Republican efforts to change Americans'
generally pessimistic views of the new tax reform legislation as the law's tax cuts become reality.
Americans' assessments of international peace could, at least in part,
be affected by whether Trump can defuse the situation with North Korea,
a country Americans have long considered one of the
nation's greatest threats. While history suggests it is unlikely that the public would expect a
year that is mostly free of international strife, calming tensions with
North Korea would likely improve Americans' outlook.
The United States' power in the world could be a sore spot for Trump
and the GOP in the year ahead. Americans rated the
United States' world standing as the worst in a decade in February 2017. Domestic events such as special prosecutor Robert Mueller's
investigation into Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 election
could also affect perceptions of the nation's power abroad as the
New Year unfolds.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted
Dec. 4-11, 2017, with a random sample of 1,049 adults, aged 18 and older,
living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results
based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error
is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported
margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone
respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas
by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are
selected using random-digit-dial methods.
View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.
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Gallup Poll Social Series works.