Are Americans optimistic about the future? A recent HISTORY survey suggests they are, though that optimism comes with some caveats.
The survey of 535 adults found that four-fifths of them were hopeful about what would happen to themselves and their families in 2018. Most were also generally optimistic about how their personal communities would fare in the coming year. However, only 55 percent of respondents were hopeful about the state of the country in 2018, and less than half had a positive outlook on how 2018 would play out for the rest of the world.
HISTORY conducted this survey on December 13 and 14, just after Doug Jones’ surprising victory over alleged sexual predator Roy Moore in Alabama; and it’s possible timing could have given some Americans—especially liberals—a little boost in their optimism.
Even if that’s the case, conservatives still seemed the most optimistic about the future. Only 53 percent of liberals said they were hopeful, compared to 75 percent of conservatives. And although “hopeful” was the top ranking emotion that the survey respondents felt about the year ahead, the second-place emotion was “worried.”
Doomed to Repeat History?
One sentiment that was relatively consistent among survey respondents was the importance of understanding history moving forward. Ninety-six percent of respondents said they somewhat or strongly agreed with the statement, “Now more than ever, it’s important we learn lessons from the past so we don’t repeat the same mistakes.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Americans agree on which kind of conclusions we should draw from the past. During the Alabama election, Moore drew controversy when he said that the last time America was “great” was “at the time when families were united, even though we had slavery.”
That’s a starkly different conclusion than many Americans—especially black Americans—would draw from the history of slavery. And it suggest that while Americans may feel that studying history can prevent us from making the same mistakes, they are divided about what exactly those “mistakes” might be.