Fifty-six percent of those surveyed said they are generally optimistic about the country's future, while 38 percent were pessimistic about the nation's prospects. That's slightly less optimism than CBS News found in 1996, when 59 percent were optimistic about the country's future and 31 percent were pessimistic.
Younger Americans are more optimistic than their older counterparts, and Democrats are more optimistic than Republicans: Nearly three in four Democrats are optimistic about America's future, while a majority of Republicans are pessimistic.
Americans are generally less optimistic about their own prospects than they were in 2007 or 2000. Fewer than half (47 percent) say they have better opportunities than their parents' generation, a decline of 15 percentage points from June 2007 and 25 percentage points from early 2000.
The poll was taken as part of CBS News' "Where America Stands" series, an in-depth look at where the country stands today on key topics and an outlook for the future decade.
Women are generally more optimistic than men: Fifty-three percent say they have better opportunities for success than their parents' generation, while just 40 percent of men say so.
One in two Americans say they are somewhat satisfied with how things are going in their life. Twenty-two percent are completely satisfied, while 28 percent are either somewhat or completely dissatisfied.
Income levels appear to make a difference. While 30 percent of those who make more than $50,000 are completely satisfied, just 15 percent of those who make less than that amount say they are completely satisfied. And while nearly 40 percent of those who make less than $50,000 are dissatisfied, just 17 percent of those who make more than $50,000 say the same.
Americans polled for the survey were asked to volunteer an ambition or dream they want to accomplish over the next decade. The most volunteered response, offered by 16 percent of those surveyed, was to start a business of their own or make a career change.
Thirteen percent said they simply want to live a long and healthy life, or simply go on living. Another twelve percent said they wanted to further their education, while seven percent wanted to work less or retire.
This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1048 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone December 17-22, 2009. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.
This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.