As 2014 ends, Americans are in a more upbeat mood about their prospects, but no less split along partisan lines on a variety of issues after a hard-fought midterm election that led to sweeping changes in Congress.
Whether people expect more gridlock or are hoping for major initiatives from Congress, they are clearly optimistic about the economy, according to the year-end sounding of public opinion from the IBD/TIPP poll.
Of the 904 adults surveyed from Dec. 1-7, 46% believe the U.S. will enter a recession in 2015. That sounds high, but 50% also say a recession is "unlikely."
This is significant, since in IBD's regular December poll, 38% believe the U.S. is still in a recession, and 42% think the economy isn't improving at all.
Overall the outlook sounds more optimistic.
Even on this, as on many other issues, Americans cleave along party, gender and ethnic lines.
For instance, just 28% of Democrats say a recession is likely next year, but 65% of Republicans do. Married women are among the most bearish, with 57% expecting a recession.
With the job market noticeably picking up, 62% believe there will be "significant improvement" in employment vs. just 36% saying that's unlikely.
Up On Hiring
Democrats (81%), blacks (70%) and the college-educated (70%) are particularly optimistic about job growth in 2015.
On several other issues — ranging from immigration legislation and building the Keystone pipeline to repealing ObamaCare and turmoil in the Middle East — views tend to be more evenly split.
After the border surge that saw thousands of young immigrants from Latin America cross into the U.S., setting off an often-bitter political debate, fully 59% say a new immigration law is unlikely in 2015. Those with higher incomes and more education are most skeptical that immigration legislation will pass.
Respondents are far likelier to believe Congress will succeed in stopping President Obama's executive action granting temporary legal status to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants in America.
This is another area of strong agreement across party lines and ethnicity: Overall, 56% say Congress will halt Obama's move, with Democrats (56%) and even Hispanics (54%) agreeing.
Meanwhile, with its fumbled website launch, rising costs and a surge of new rules, ObamaCare remains uncertain, the poll suggests. Among those who responded, 50% say that "the repeal or cutback of large parts of ObamaCare" is likely by the new Republican-led Congress, while 47% disagree.
Other IBD/TIPP findings include:
Most Americans — 50% to 47% — believe that gasoline prices will remain below $3 a gallon nationwide in the coming year, a possible shot in the arm for consumer spending.
55% say it's likely that the U.S. government will OK the Keystone XL Pipeline. This is one issue with broad bipartisan consensus, with Democrats (55%) pretty much agreeing with Republicans (54%).
A scary 55% of Americans think it's likely that Iran will acquire a nuclear weapon in 2015, while just 39% think it's unlikely. Here, a partisan split is clear: 73% of Republicans and 61% of independents believe Iran will get a nuke, but 60% of Democrats doubt it.
More people — 50% — say the radical Islamic State's threat to the U.S. will probably weaken during 2015. Still, 45% say such a weakening is unlikely.
Interestingly, just as many conservatives call the IS weakening unlikely as liberals who called it likely: 59%.