Northwestern Mutual

Glass Half Full Or Glass Half Empty?

MILWAUKEE, April 22, 2009 – How is American optimism faring?  Northwestern Mutual recently released the findings of “The American Reality Study,” which revealed quite dramatically that Americans remain optimistic even at a time of great uncertainty and economic turmoil.

As a follow-up to that research, Northwestern Mutual has launched the “Optimism Barometer” – an online tool that gives individuals a chance to see how they compare to the rest of the nation in terms of optimism.  Additionally, the Optimism Barometer gives Northwestern Mutual an opportunity to check in with Main Street for a snapshot of the nation’s level of optimism, and how it is holding up over time.

“We are encouraged by both the optimism and realism we found in Americans today,” said Greg Oberland, Northwestern Mutual executive vice president.  “The American Reality Study showed us that people appear to be simultaneously maintaining a positive outlook while also addressing some very real challenges head-on.  For example, while many people are feeling financially unstable, they’re planning to save more, and are placing a greater priority on achieving financial security for the future.”

The Optimism Barometer consists of six short questions that take less than a minute to complete.  The questions are not what one might expect, but optimists and pessimists answer them in distinctly clear patterns. As a result, even for those who already see themselves as ‘glass-half-full’ or ‘glass-half-empty’ types, the Optimism Barometer can be revealing.

After completing the questions, the needle moves to show the individual’s optimism score, which is compared to the results of the rest of the US population. Along with the score, a profile of the people who share the same result is displayed – identifying potential crossover characteristics among similarly optimistic or pessimistic people.

Northwestern Mutual plans to track the data collected via the Optimism Barometer, and seek to identify general trends nationally and regionally. This is particularly relevant now, at a time when Americans are being bombarded with often conflicting indicators, such as unemployment rates, consumer confidence levels, stock market fluctuations and more.  

“It will be interesting to see how – or if – the optimism needle moves in the weeks, months and years ahead,” said Oberland.

About the research

The Optimism Barometer was developed using questions from The American Reality Study, which was commissioned by Northwestern Mutual and conducted by independent research firm Mathew Greenwald & Associates. Questions for the Optimism Barometer were chosen from among those that were highly statistically predictive of optimism among survey participants.  

The broad study was conducted to help provide insight into how Americans are handling the economic, political, and social changes taking place in the U.S.; and what the impact has been on the way people view their lives and their future. The study was conducted online among 1,000 Americans age 25 or older between January 6 and January 14, 2009.  Study participants were selected from among members of Survey Sampling International’s SurveySpot™ Internet Survey Panel.

The survey data were weighted by gender, age and household income to reflect the makeup of the U.S. population ages 25 or older.  Population statistics were based on data from the 2007 Current Population Survey.  A detailed description of the weighting methodology is available upon request. View the full report online.

About Northwestern Mutual

The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company – Milwaukee, WI (Northwestern Mutual) has helped clients achieve financial security for more than 150 years. As a mutual company with over $1 trillion of life insurance protection in force, Northwestern Mutual seeks to share its gains with policyowners and deliver consistent and dependable value to clients over time.

Northwestern Mutual is an industry leader in total individual life insurance and disability insurance dividends paid to participating policyowners. Though dividends are not guaranteed, are reviewed annually and are subject to change, the company has paid life insurance dividends every year since 1872.

Northwestern Mutual and its subsidiaries offer a holistic approach to financial security solutions including: life insurance, long-term care insurance, disability insurance, annuities, investment products, and advisory products and services. Subsidiaries include Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC, broker-dealer, registered investment advisor, member FINRA and SIPC; the Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company, limited purpose federal savings bank; and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company; and Russell Investment Group. Further information can be found at

4/22/2009 3:38:22 PM