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Optimism falls in national poll, up with informal quiz of Arkansans

Regional business and civic leaders who responded to an informal survey by The City Wire do not share the pessimism exhibited in a recent Rasmussen Poll in which only 29% said America’s best days like ahead.

A closely watched Rasmussen poll recently reported that just 29% of likely voters surveyed believe the country’s best days lie ahead, down four percentage points from April and the lowest point during the eight-year history of the survey.

The question asked in the poll was: “When you think about our nation in the context of history, are America’s Best Days in the future or in the past?” The national telephone survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports on July 7-8, 2014. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

Results showed that 52% said the country’s best days are behind us, up from 48% in April. This ties October’s recent high and is one of the few times this figure has passed the 50% mark. Also, 18% said they are not sure.

Ed Clifford, president and CEO of the Jones Trust and the head of the Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce for more than 11 years, said it’s not about better days being ahead, but that simpler days are in the past.

“I think that much simpler days are behind us, and that our national leaders haven’t figured out how to operate effectively in this new, very complex environment, either nationally or internationally. Until they do, we’re at the very least going to tread water, and this leads to trouble as time goes on,” Clifford said.

“Fundamentally optimistic” is Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business & Economic Research at the Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. She added a caveat that her optimism is continually evaluated by keeping an eye on “day-to-day realities.”
 
“My optimism is based on a long view. While it is clear that over the short term, we face what seem like intractable political problems, what is true is that we have the fundamental capability to make good decisions,” Deck explained in an e-mail note. “I think that the proliferation of information is both the reason behind our pessimism (negative messaging hits us at every turn) and the key to our future success (good information is the key to making the best of what we’ve got.)”

Rod Coleman, chairman and CEO of Fort Smith-based Benefit Bank, which also is active in Northwest Arkansas, is “very optimistic.”

“We are seeing great growth already in our business and see potential that we have not seen in the past 6 years. Particularly in NWA,” Coleman wrote, adding that Federal Reserve actions to increase interest rates would hurt the economy.

Also in the optimistic camp is Kelly Johnson, director of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority,

“I am a bit optimistic. I believe we are going to continue for a while to see a downturn but I think our nation will rally; so no, I don’t believe our best has come and gone,” Johnson said.

Her optimism is in part based on the brains of the next generation.

“There is a lot of innovation that has yet to occur and there are a bunch of really smart young people out there who are committed to innovate or die!” Johnson noted.

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On that theme, Greg Kaza, director of the Little Rock-based Arkansas Policy Foundation, had a simple response when asked if he was optimistic: “America will always be a beacon for entrepreneurs.”

The poll also found that 58% of the likely voters polled believe American society is “fair and decent,” and that those who immigrate to the country should adopt U.S. language, culture and heritage.

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