It is safe to say that the year 2020 has been one of the most consequential in modern American history. And all roads lead back to the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic which has rocked much of the developed world created a firestorm in this country that will likely have downstream consequences for years. The tragic death. The millions who have been infected. And there are plenty of other long-term consequences which have yet to be fully realized, particularly regarding the long-term human suffering from the thousands of small businesses which have been shuttered or destroyed, to the psychological repercussions of our pandemic response, most notably from the isolation of social distancing and lockdowns.

But the pandemic was only the backdrop to other upheavals in American life. For much of the year, race relations and police accountability created divisions within our society, leading to protests and riots and the calls for law enforcement reform in America. Then, finally, came the 2020 Presidential Election, the perfect capstone to a year rife with turmoil and division. In a contest won by Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump refused to concede, leading to months long protests, public hearings, and doubt sowed into the results of the election. But despite all this, Americans remain optimistic. In fact, we may just have our best days in front of us.

According to recent polling, this is exactly what over half of Americans believe. When the Public Religion Research Institute asked, “In general, do you think America’s best days are ahead of us or behind us?,” the results were unexpectedly positive against the backdrop of 2020. AEI.org reported that “In the September poll, 58 percent said America’s best days are ahead and 41 percent said the country’s best days are behind us.” In the years since 2012, the very same poll conducted by the institute has shown that Americans have generally been optimistic about the future of the country despite the dramas of the day. “…the organization has asked the question four other times since 2012, and in only one of those questions were more people pessimistic than optimistic.” Even when Americans felt our best days had come to pass, the margins were slim, with 48% of respondents saying our best days were ahead.

A further dive into some of the data compiled by the institute’s survey show that there is broad support for this optimism across the board. “Majorities across the party spectrum agree that America’s best days are ahead of us, including 61% of Republicans, 56% of independents, and 62% of Democrats.” However, it is interesting to note that prior to the 2016 elections, Republican’s and Independents did not have to same enthusiasm as Democrats about America’s future. “Just before the 2016 election, 38% of Republicans, 45% of independents, and 61% of Democrats said that America’s best days were ahead of us.” Of course, it should be noted that Democrats optimism rained in the 2017 poll following former President Donald Trump’s underdog defeat of Hillary Clinton. It seems this enthusiasm for the country bridges the demographic divides of religion and race, as well. According to the poll’s findings, “Majorities of nearly every major religious group say that America’s best days are ahead of us,” and “…there are no significant racial divides over the belief that American culture and way of life have changed for the better since the 1950s.”

Despite the unprecedented challenges of 2020, the findings of the survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute display that American’s still rally around the flag. While our differences may at times seem irreparable, the majority of us firmly believe that better days are ahead. We may be conditioned to believe that when we go across the political and demographic spectrums that there is just too much which divides us, but according to this poll one simple truth endures: we are still “one nation” which has confidence that our union will continue to grow stronger.


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