Poll: Americans Hopeful for a Better Year in 2014

John Minchillo/APRevelers at last year’s New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square in New York City.By JENNIFER AGIESTA

WASHINGTON — Ready to ring in the new year, Americans look ahead with optimism, according to a new AP-Times Square New Year’s Eve poll. Their ratings of the year gone by? Less than glowing.

What the public thought of 2013:

Good Year or Good Riddance?

On the whole, Americans rate their own experience in 2013 more positively than negatively, but when asked to assess the year for the United States or the world at large, things turn sour. But the outlook for the new year is positive: 49 percent think their own fortunes will improve in 2014, 14 percent are anticipating the new year to be a downgrade from the old. Thirty-four percent say they don’t expect much to change.

Where’s the Party?

Most Americans — 54 percent — say they’ll be ringing in the new year at home, while 1 in 5 are heading to a friend’s or family member’s house. Only 8 percent say they’ll go to a bar, restaurant or other organized event. Countdown Companions

Wherever they’re spending the holiday, most Americans prefer the company of family. Asked with whom they want to be when the clock strikes midnight, 83 percent name a family member. What Mattered in News

The implementation of the health care law topped the list of the most important news stories of 2013, with 26 percent citing it. In an Associated Press survey of news directors and editors, 45 of 144 journalists surveyed called the health care rollout their top story.

In the AP-Times Square poll, the death of Nelson Mandela occurred as the poll was underway. It rose quickly, with 8 percent naming it as the most important news of the year, matching the share citing the federal government’s budget difficulties or shutdown.

The budget fight, which led to a partial shutdown of the federal government in October, was rated extremely or very important by 60 percent of Americans, and prompted rare bipartisan agreement. About two-thirds in each major party, 65 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of Democrats, rated it highly important.

A majority said the Boston Marathon bombings were extremely or very important, and 47 percent considered the national debate over gun laws that important.

Pop Culture: Mostly Forgettable Moments

Miley Cyrus’s MTV Video Music Awards performance. The launch of “Lean In.” Apologies from Paula Deen and Lance Armstrong. Walter White’s exit and the entrance of the Netflix (NFLX) series “House of Cards.” What do they all have in common? More Americans say these pop culture moments were more forgettable than memorable.

Just one pop culture moment was deemed more memorable than forgettable: The birth of Prince George to Britain’s Prince William and his wife, Kate. The AP-Times Square New Year’s Eve Poll was conducted by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications from Dec. 5-9 and involved online interviews with 1,367 adults. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for all respondents.

The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, a probability-based Internet panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Respondents to the survey were first selected randomly, using phone or mail survey methods, and were later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.

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