Sixty-two percent of respondents predicted that their household will have more money in the new year while only 16 percent predicted less. Sixty percent expect even more jobs to be available next year than last. Fifty-eight percent thought the nation's schools were improving. And only 39 percent thought that street crime was on the rise, compared with 60 percent in a similar poll taken four years ago. Ditto for racial problems: only 45 percent expect an increase, down from 67 percent back in 1993.
Of course, for most Americans, 1997 was indeed a very good year. Crime and unemployment were way down. So were gas prices and interest rates. After a year of budget surpluses, politicians are fighting over how much to cut taxes. The Dow, the S&P, and the Nasdaq composites have all posted gains of more than 20 percent for three straight years. And if you're not too Earth-conscious, hey — it's even getting warmer. But there's always room for improvement.