Gazing into 2003

Many Americans are approaching the new year with caution along with a bit of optimism. The possible war with Iraq and the unstable economy leave Americans with an uncertain future.

“Its like gazing into a crystal ball,” said Darryl Paulson, director for the College of Arts and Sciences and a government professor at USF-St. Petersburg.

An Associated Press poll of 1,008 adults conducted in December found that two out of three Americans believe it would be wise to hold off on more tax cuts. The poll also found that people are more cautious with their personal spending.

“Unless the businesses and investors feel the atmosphere is right, people will not buy,” Paulson said. “The economy is an indicator of confidence.”

Susan MacManus, an USF political science professor, said she believes that the economy will improve over time.

“It will be slower than expected in increments,” MacManus said.

On economics, the AP poll showed a large percentage of Republicans said it would be better to hold off on the tax cuts to avoid deeper deficits. Forty-four percent said they were now more cautious about what they spend than they had been, while half said they had not changed their spending habits.

“With a lack of confidence, people want to hold onto their money just in case (something were to happen),” Paulson said. “When you have extreme confidence in the economy, people have the ‘spend today and worry tomorrow’ attitude.”

However, the AP poll also stated that Americans are optimistic about their financial situation. Almost half, 44 percent, said they expect their financial situation will be better a year from now.

Young adults have a better outlook than older people about their financial situation, according to the AP poll.

“I think it will pick back up with time, but if we go to war I don’t know,” said sophomore Jonathan Bondoc. “(War) can make the economy go up or go down.”

However, no matter how the upcoming year is looked at, Florida would be affected, MacManus said.

“Florida is in the center of both the political and the economic sides,” she said.

MacManus said the state is vulnerable because of the amount of tourism and trade it does both nationally and internationally, which can lead to putting resources into Iraq if war were to occur.

“We have a lot of military stationed here in the state,” she said.

The poll found that people are worried about a war with Iraq, but view Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network as more threatening than Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

“We need to do something about Iraq and go to war,” said sophomore Adam Gaudreau. “It will probably happen in the next two months.”

MacManus said the polls she has been looking at show the public is supportive of President George W. Bush and his efforts with Iraq and North Korea. Yet, people worry more about the effects of a possible war, Paulson said.

“Right now the greatest impact on the economy would be terrorism internally in the United States,” he said. “It’s the reaction post-Sept. 11, 2001.”

According to a poll conducted by the International Research of Media in Pennsylvania, two-thirds of the respondents said they were worried that war with Iraq would increase the chances of a terror attack on the United States. The AP poll found that women(40 percent) were more likely than men (26 percent) to say they worry a great deal about an increase in terror attacks on U.S. soil.

“It touches us in Florida some way,” MacManus said.

Contact Stefanie Greenat