Despite the difficulties and challenges of the past year, a new report from Ruder Finn finds that many Americans have a positive view of the past 12 months, and a majority think that things will improve in the future.

Overall, almost half of the respondents (48 percent) to Ruder Finn’s FutureThink Index study said that they felt positive about the events of the past year, with 37 percent saying their feelings were neutral, and only 15 percent labeling the last 12 months as negative.

When it comes to the future, 58 percent said they think their lives in terms of career, health and technology will improve, with 24 percent registering a neutral take on their prospects and 18 percent having a negative view.

In two measures of who picks up much of the tab for work-from-home living, parents and women both had significantly less positive views than did men and non-parents. While 58 percent of men said they thought positively about the last 12 months, that number drops to 35 percent for women. A similar gap exists between non-parents (53 percent positive) and parents (37 percent positive).

Ruder Finn Survey

Not surprisingly, economic status was another major marker of how respondents viewed the past year. Almost seven out of 10 (69 percent) of those who described their financial status as wealthy were positive about the past year, while only 31 percent of those who said they were low-income felt the same.

Boomers were not as happy about the past 12 months as their younger cohorts, with only 30 of them voicing a positive view. That contrasts to 52 percent for Gen X, 49 percent for Millennials and 55 percent for Gen Z.

The study also finds that business leadership can boost positivity levels. It measured respondents’ connection to employers, healthcare and technology providers in terms of transparency, dialogue and knowledge-sharing (or TDK, as the study puts it). A big majority (82 percent) of those who said they felt a high level of TDK with those groups also took an optimistic view of what the future holds, with only 31 percent of those reporting a low level of TDK having a positive outlook.

A high level of TDK with healthcare providers was linked to an increased likelihood of getting a COVID vaccine or using a wearable health device, while those with a closer TDK connection to their employers were more likely to update their resumes or take a professional development course.

“In this new age, businesses and their leaders are emerging as primary, trusted sources of information, and they are becoming true influencers,” said Ruder Finn CEO Kathy Bloomgarden. “It is crucial that leaders and businesses consider their impact and how their actions can help both close the gaps in sentiment we see across demographics and improve the outlook of society overall.”