Most Americans envision a future where cancer is cured and space travel is for everyone. But they also see a world beset by war, energy shortages and a terrorist attack with nuclear weapons. Still, most see a better future for themselves and the nation over the next four decades.
The president gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from the world (with the notable exception of the U.S.) for the way he has handled the world economic crisis. Obama's personal popularity remains high, as do favorable views of the U.S. In a striking difference from the Bush years, while many around the world disagree with Obama's foreign policies, the U.S. image has not been significantly dented as a result. Muslim countries, however, continue to hold a negative view of America and most also give Obama unfavorable ratings.
Americans want expanded exploration and development of coal, oil and gas in the U.S. but also want limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Michele Obama's favorability stays strong but the president's and Sarah Palin's popularity slip.
Congress's ratings are abysmal; Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan draws mixed ratings but half have no opinion.
Americans are critical of the government's response to the environmental disaster in the Gulf, but even more so of BP. Support for offshore oil drilling is down, though Republican opinion is unchanged.
Americans strongly favor increased funding for research on wind, solar and hydrogen technology and more spending on mass transit, but majorities also support offshore drilling and nuclear power. Half have heard nothing at all about "cap and trade."
As leaders convene in Copenhagen to discuss climate change, they will address a concern shared around the globe. Publics are willing to sacrifice economic growth for the environment, but nations are split on which country should lead on global warming.
Why do fewer Americans believe the earth is warming? A range of possibilities, including a sour economy and, perhaps, a cooler than normal summer in parts of the U.S., may provide an explanation.
There has been a sharp decline in the percentage of Americans who say there is solid evidence that global temperatures are rising. Still, there is more support than opposition for cap and trade policy.
In many countries opinions of the United States are now about as positive as they were at the beginning of the decade before George W. Bush took office. Improvements in the U.S. image have been most pronounced in Western Europe, where favorable ratings for both the nation and the American people have soared. But opinions of America have also become more positive in key countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, as well. Signs of improvement in views of America are seen even in some predominantly Muslim countries.