For the first time in years, more Americans than not say the country is headed in the right direction, according to an AP poll. The percentage of Americans saying the country is headed in the right direction rose to 48%, up eight points from February, while 44% say the nation is on the wrong track. The last time optimism has trumped pessimism in the poll was January 2004, shortly after the capture of Saddam Hussein.
The poll is a sign that Barack Obama has used the first 100 days of his presidency to lift the public's mood, though 65% say it's difficult to get ahead and more than 90% worry about rising national debt. "He presents a very positive outlook," says one independent voter. In October 2008, just 17% said the country was heading in the right direction; that figure jumped to 36% after his election. The AP poll also found that more than 90% of Americans considered the economy an important issue—the highest figure ever recorded.