Poll measures optimism worldwide

? Turns out there might be more to those “Yes we can” campaign speeches than just good delivery.

Optimism — the expectation of a better tomorrow — is universal, according to a new worldwide Gallup poll.

Around the world, 95 percent of people expect their lives in five years to be as good as or better than they were five years ago, according to the survey analyzed by a Kansas University graduate student.

“The instillation of hope is the biggest factor that causes change,” said Matthew Gallagher, 27, a clinical psychology student who came up with the idea to find out how optimistic people were.

What he found is that people, no matter where they live, are pretty darn positive.

The economy may be in the toilet, people may be out of work, war is raging and threats of flu epidemics abound, but for the most part, Gallagher said, “people by nature are universally optimistic.”

Gallagher set out to measure optimism three years ago with former KU professor Shane Lopez, who now works with Gallup, the international polling group that collected the data.

Six months ago they got their results and last week presented their findings at the Association for Psychological Science’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

More than 150,000 people in 140 countries were polled. Telephone interviews were done in the U.S., but in countries with limited phone access, poll workers knocked on doors asking people whether they had access to basic food and shelter and about their overall quality of life.

They also asked how they perceived the government and how they thought things might go in the future.

According to the study, the most optimism is in Ireland, Brazil, Denmark and New Zealand. The U.S. is the 10th most-optimistic country. The least optimistic are Egypt, Haiti, Bulgaria and Zimbabwe.

Young people are more positive than older people. People with money are more optimistic than people without, and women are slightly more optimistic than men.

“We thought that optimism would be universal but we were somewhat surprised by the degree to which it was,” Gallagher said. “Even in a lot of countries in Africa and South America that are in economic turmoil and people deal with a lot of uncertainty, the levels were pretty high.”