Poll: Americans Optimistic About Future

By: CBS
By: CBS

(CBS) Sixty-three percent of Americans - including roughly one in five voters who supported John McCain - are pleased that Barack Obama has been elected President of the United States, a new CBS News poll finds. Only about one in four are disappointed in the outcome of the election.

And despite the many challenges facing the incoming Obama administration, chief among them a major economic downturn, 71 percent of Americans - including nearly half of McCain voters - are optimistic about the next four years. Just 17 percent are pessimistic.

Americans' reaction to President-elect Obama's victory is by no means unprecedented: About seven in 10 Americans were optimistic about Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton before their first terms began. Six in 10 were optimistic about George W. Bush in December of 2000.

Most Americans believe that Mr. Obama will make the right decisions when it comes to the economy, which voters overwhelmingly cited as their top concern. Seventy-eight percent are at least somewhat confident the president-elect will make the right decisions, and 41 percent have a lot of confidence he will do so.

Meanwhile, 70 percent are at least somewhat confident Mr. Obama will make the right decisions on Iraq, and 42 percent have a lot of confidence in the president-elect on the issue. About one in four have little or no confidence in Mr. Obama when it comes to Iraq.

But while nearly seven in ten Americans believe President-elect Obama has made his goals clear, there is widespread skepticism that he will be able to achieve all of them. Just one in five voters believe Mr. Obama will accomplish all his campaign goals, while 48 percent believe he will not. About one in four respondents volunteered that Mr. Obama will achieve some of his goals, but not all of them.

Nearly seven in ten Americans believe an Obama presidency will bring Americans together, including nearly half of Republicans. Fifteen percent believe an Obama presidency will divide Americans. In December 2000, only 46 percent thought President George W. Bush, who campaigned as "a uniter, not a divider," would bring Americans closer together.

Seventy-eight percent believe "a lot of progress" has been made in getting rid of racial discrimination in the past ten or fifteen years. Mr. Obama's election may not have had much to do with that perception, however: Last July, nearly the same percentage said a lot of progress had been made.

Blacks and whites are divided on the progress question. Less than half of blacks believe a lot of progress has been made in ending racial discrimination, while 45 percent say there has not been much progress. Just 11 percent of whites say there has not been much progress.

Americans have taken advantage of the efforts by many states to expand their absentee and early voting programs, and 29 percent of voters report casting their ballots before Election Day this year.

While 63 percent of early voters say there was at least some wait when they went to vote, a smaller percentage of Election Day voters - 44 percent - reported a wait.

More than a quarter of early voters say they had to wait in line for at least a half hour to vote, while 15 percent of Election Day voters had to wait that long. Ten percent of early voters and five percent of Election Day voters waited more than an hour to vote.

Blacks report waiting in line longer than whites.

The Obama campaign appears to have outdone the McCain campaign in contacting voters and encouraging them to go to the polls. While just five percent of voters say they were contacted only by the McCain campaign, 14 percent were only contacted by the Obama campaign. An additional 14 percent were contacted by both campaigns, while 65 percent were not contacted by either campaign.

Among new voters, 40 percent say they were contacted only by the Obama campaign, while none said they were contacted exclusively by the McCain camp.

Twenty-three percent of those who didn't vote in last week's election said they did not do so because they are not registered to vote. Fifteen percent said they simply didn't want to vote, while 9 percent said they didn't have time and 5 percent cited issues at their polling place. Other reasons offered include illness and not being a U.S. citizen.

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This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1,220 adults interviewed by telephone November 7-10, 2008. Respondents had been first interviewed October 30-November 3, 2008. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the total sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

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