Americans optimistic 2009 will be a better year: poll

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Despite the doom and gloom of a prolonged recession, the majority of Americans are optimistic about what is in store in 2009.

A trader smiles walking outside the energy options pit of the New York Mercantile Exchange October 17, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

But given the economic downturn many have also pledged to try to save more money in the coming year, according to a new poll.

“Obviously the economy has been noticed,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York which conducted the survey.

“But in the context of this time of year, it is out with the old and in with the new, and that is reflected in the optimism.”

Expectations for a brighter future were higher among younger generations with 64 percent of those under 45 having an optimistic view compared with 52 percent for those 45 or older.

The Marist College canvassed 1,003 Americans about their expectations for 2009 on December 9 and 10 -- days after the National Bureau of Economic Research confirmed the United States had been mired in a recession since December 2007.

The poll showed younger Americans are most likely to adopt New Year’s resolutions. More than half of those aged 45 or younger plan to adopt lifestyle changes next year, compared with 29 percent of those 45 or older.

But only 40 percent of Americans say it is likely they will adopt New Year’s resolutions at all.

Based on last year’s results, those who aim to improve their lives in 2009 will have at least partial success. In 2008, 60 percent kept their self-made promises for at least part of the year.

“Success seems to be better for those who make realistic expectations,” said Miringoff. “Even then it is usually partial success.”

New Year’s vows include everything from a pledge to drop excess weight, to get out of debt, or get closer to God.

In 2009, the top three pledges are to lose weight, kick the smoking habit and to save more money.

The first two were also the top resolutions last year, according to the poll. But a desire to improve spending and saving habits surpassed the No. 3 resolution a year ago, which was to become a better person. That lofty goal has fallen to seventh place on 2009 resolution lists.

Resolutions to exercise more, eat a healthier diet, and improve one’s health took fourth, fifth and sixth places.

Reporting by Lilla Zuill; editing by Patricia Reaney