As Congress scrambled to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff" in the final days of 2012, a majority of voters expressed pessimism about the nation's economic prospects in the new year, according to a new poll released by USA Today/Gallup.
The survey, taken between Dec. 14 and 17, was conducted about two weeks before Congress signed off on an eleventh-hour deal to temporarily avert the so-called "cliff", a combination of automatic spending cuts and tax increases that was scheduled to go into effect on January 1. The deal, a two-month stopgap measure which the House of Representatives approved late on New Year's Day, extends the Bush-era tax rates for most Americans and extends long-term unemployment insurance, among other things.
According to the poll, 53 percent of Americans believe 2013 will yield full or increasing employment prospects, and 57 percent think prices will rise at a reasonable rate. Only 33 percent, however, predict a year of economic prosperity. Sixty-five percent said they anticipated a year of economic difficulty.
Many Americans also revealed a pessimistic outlook when asked more broadly about the nation's future: Fifty percent said they thought the country's best years are in the past, while 47 percent said the nation's best days are ahead. Republicans were more likely -- at 74 percent -- to say America's best days are in the past; 69 percent of Democrats, meanwhile, expressed the opposite viewpoint. Independents were more split: 43 percent said the country's best days are ahead of us and 55 percent said they are behind us.
Nearly 6 in 10 respondents - 57 percent - also predicted a decline in America's power on the global stage, while 37 percent said America would increase its power in 2013.
The vast majority of Americans - 82 percent - correctly predicted that tax rates would go up, despite Republican efforts to the contrary. They also doubted that efforts to balance the federal budget in 2013 would prevail: Eighty-five percent of Americans expected that the federal government would have a deficit.