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The Optimism Gap: Are Washington and the Public on the Same Track?

by Scott Bittle

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Part of leadership is conveying an air of optimism and confidence. Any management book, any memoir by a general, politician or basketball coach will tell you that. But what does it mean when leaders are more optimistic than the people they're supposed to be leading?

That's the question raised by the latest edition of Public Agenda's survey of Beltway influencers, The Buck Stops Where? What D.C. Influencers Say About The National Debt. About half of the leaders we've surveyed since March 2010 say the country's moving in the right direction (48 percent said this in our most recent round of research, completed in April).

By contrast, 70 percent of the public told the CBS/New York Times survey in April that America is on the wrong track: a more than 20-point gap. What's more, this gap has widened: in February and October 2010, the CBS/Times survey (which uses the same wording as Harris) showed about six in 10 saying the nation's "seriously off on the wrong track."

So what are the implications? Have a look at the full blog post on the subject,available at the Huffington Post.




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