Poll: Majority of Americans say this year worse than last, mass shootings top concern
NEW YORK (AP) – Mass shootings and attacks weighed heavily on the minds of Americans in 2015, according to a new poll that found most believe this year was worse for the world than last year.
A look at the key findings of The Associated Press-Times Square Alliance poll:
PREOCCUPIED BY MASS SHOOTINGS
Americans say the most important events of 2015 were a string of mass shootings, including the attacks in San Bernardino, California, and Paris, plus Islamic State group atrocities.
Fifty-seven percent of those polled say this year was worse than the last year for the world as a whole, up from the 38 percent asked that question a year ago. Only 10 percent believe 2015 was a better year than 2014, while 32 percent think there wasn't much difference.
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Americans also are much less likely than they were a year ago to believe that the current year was better for the United States — only 17 percent compared with 30 percent a year ago. Thirty-seven percent think this year was worse for the country than last year, while 44 percent don't think there was much difference.
On a personal level, fewer than a third (29 percent) believe 2015 was better for them than 2014, while 21 percent feel it was worse, compared with 15 percent in 2014.
Interviewed separately from the poll, Jason Pruitt, a 43-year-old corporate pilot from the Detroit area, said security concerns were a factor in deciding whether to take his wife and daughter along on a Christmas trip to New York.
"We were thinking about not coming this year, because of everything that's going on," Pruitt said. But they went ahead "because when you change your life, the terrorists win."
THREE EVENTS SHARE THE TOP SPOT
Of those polled, 68 percent listed mass shootings in the U.S. as very or extremely important news events this year, including the one in San Bernardino that heightened fears of domestic terrorism, plus shootings in Charleston, South Carolina; Roseburg, Oregon; and Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Close behind, at 64 percent, were the Paris attacks that ushered in 2015, targeting Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish market, then the Bataclan concert hall and other city sites in November.
And third, at 63 percent, came the Islamic State group's various far-flung atrocities.
Commenting on the completed poll was 32-year-old J.P. Fury, working in a food truck in Times Square.
"At this point, I'm numb to all of it," he said. "This is nothing new. Every week there's a new shooting somewhere in America, and there's a new terrorist attack somewhere around the world."
Domestically, 44 percent of those polled rate as extremely or very important the deaths of blacks in encounters with police that sparked "Black Lives Matter" protests in Baltimore and Chicago.
Another 44 percent rate the deal reached to curtail Iran's nuclear program as important, and nearly as many (42 percent) Europe's migrant crisis.
Only 40 percent said the presidential race was important to them, with the Paris climate change conference right behind (at 38 percent), followed by the Supreme Court's legalization of gay marriage (36 percent) and the Cuban-U.S. thaw (30 percent).
RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR
Most Americans plan to celebrate New Year's Eve either at home (48 percent) or at the home of a friend or family member (20 percent). Nine percent plan to be at a bar, restaurant or organized event, while just under a quarter (22 percent) don't plan to celebrate at all.
A majority of Americans (56 percent) will watch the New Year's Eve events in Times Square, and 95 percent of those will see it on TV.
Those findings were similar to those of the past two years.
THE YEAR IN POP CULTURE
No single pop culture event of 2015 stands out, with fewer than four in 10 Americans rating any as memorable.
The eagerly awaited "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was memorable only to 37 percent of those polled, and forgettable to 34 percent.
Bill Cosby's legal woes were memorable to 36 percent; forgettable to 33 percent.
Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn Jenner, with a highly orchestrated publicity campaign, was forgettable to 52 percent, and Taylor Swift's world tour to 55 percent.
The AP-Times Square Alliance Poll of 1,020 adults was conducted online Dec. 11-13, using a sample drawn from GfK's probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The poll is a cooperative effort between AP and the organizers of the Times Square New Year's Eve Celebration, the Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment. The Alliance is a nonprofit group that seeks to promote Times Square, and Countdown Entertainment represents the owners of One Times Square and the New Year's Eve Ball Drop.
Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.
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