WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are closing out 2014 on an optimistic note, according to a new Associated Press-Times Square Alliance poll. Nearly half predict that 2015 will be a better year for them than 2014 was, while only 1 in 10 think it will be worse. There's room for improvement: Americans give the year gone by a resounding 'meh.'
Here's what Americans thought of 2014:
GAINS AT HOME, SLIPS ABROAD
On a personal level, about a third (34 percent) think 2014 was better than 2013, while 15 percent say 2014 was worse and half see little difference. Slightly fewer feel their year was a step down from the previous one than said so in 2013, when an AP-Times Square poll found 20 percent thought 2013 was worse than 2012.
Americans are slightly more likely than they were a year ago to believe that the current year was better than the last for the United States— 30 percent say so this year, while 25 percent said so in 2013. On the other hand, Americans are more likely than in the 2013 poll to say this year was worse than last for the world as a whole, with 38 percent saying so now after 30 percent said so a year ago.
THREE STORIES SHARE TOP SPOT
Americans are divided on the most important news event of 2014, with the rise of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, protests over the killings of black men including Michael Brown and Eric Garner by police officers, and the Ebola outbreak each named by about 1 in 10 Americans. In a separate Associated Press survey of news directors and editors, the killings of unarmed men by police stand out more clearly as the top story, with 22 of 85 respondents choosing it as the top news, about twice as many as the Islamic State or Ebola stories.
Among the public, Democrats are most likely to name the unrest over Brown and Garner's deaths as most important (14 percent), while Republicans are most likely to list the rise of the Islamic State (16 percent). Non-whites are more apt to cite the protests around Brown and Garner's deaths than whites (14 percent among non-whites, 8 percent among whites). The poll was conducted before the shooting deaths of two New York City police officers by a man who threatened retaliation for the police killings of unarmed black men.
Asked separately to rate the importance of 10 key stories, majorities call the expansion of the Islamic State militant group, the Ebola outbreak and the U.S. midterm elections extremely or very important stories. Nearly half rate immigration as that important, while 43 percent say so of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner stories. Only a third think the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the situation between Russia and Ukraine, or the rising number of states with legal same-sex marriage were deeply important stories.
THE YEAR IN POP CULTURE
Few Americans rate this year's crop of pop culture events as memorable, with one big exception: The death of Robin Williams, and the ensuing discussion of mental health issues. About two-thirds call that a memorable event.
Slightly more say it was more memorable (39 percent) than forgettable (34 percent) that CVS stopped selling cigarettes, and they're divided equally on whether the ubiquitous ice bucket challenge was memorable (37 percent) or forgettable (37 percent). Thirty percent say the pitching performance of Mo'ne Davis, the first female pitcher to win a Little League World Series game, was memorable, while 41 percent say it was forgettable. Women are more likely than men to see Davis's performance as memorable, 33 percent of women say so versus 26 percent of men.
Another sports first: Michael Sam becoming the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL, is rated forgettable by about half.
Events rating as forgettable by a majority of Americans include the leak of hacked celebrity photos on Reddit, Ellen DeGeneres's selfie at the Oscars, Taylor Swift going pop, and the marriages of George and Amal Clooney and Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR
About half of Americans plan to celebrate New Year's Eve at home this year, while 2 in 10 say they'll do so at a friend or family member's home. Fewer than 1 in 10 plan to celebrate at a bar, restaurant or organized event, while about a quarter don't plan to celebrate at all.
Six in 10 Americans plan to watch the televised New Year's Eve events in Times Square, including two-thirds of women and over half of men.
The AP-Times Square Alliance Poll of 1,017 adults was conducted online Dec. 12-14, using a sample drawn from GfK's probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The poll is a cooperative effort between AP and the organizers of the Times Square New Year's Eve Celebration, the Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment. The Alliance is a nonprofit group that seeks to promote Times Square, and Countdown Entertainment represents the owners of One Times Square and the New Year's Eve Ball Drop.
Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.
AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com