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— Americans are closing out 2014 on an optimistic note, according to a new Associated Press-Times Square Alliance poll. Nearly half predict that 2015 will be a better year for them than 2014 was, while only 1 in 10 think it will be worse. There’s room for improvement: Americans give the year gone by a resounding “meh.”

Here’s what Americans thought of 2014:

On a personal level, about a third (34 percent) think 2014 was better than 2013, while 15 percent say 2014 was worse and half see little difference.

Americans are slightly more likely than they were a year ago to believe that the current year was better than the last for the United States — 30 percent say so this year, while 25 percent said so in 2013. On the other hand, Americans are more likely than in the 2013 poll to say this year was worse than last for the world as a whole, with 38 percent saying so now after 30 percent said so a year ago.

Americans are divided on the most important news event, with the rise of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, protests over the killings of black men including Michael Brown and Eric Garner by police officers, and the Ebola outbreak each named by about 1 in 10 Americans.

Among the public, Democrats are most likely to name the unrest over Brown and Garner’s deaths as most important (14 percent), while Republicans are most likely to list the rise of the Islamic State (16 percent). Non-whites are more apt to cite the protests around Brown and Garner’s deaths than whites (14 percent among non-whites, 8 percent among whites). The poll was conducted before the deaths of two New York City police officers by a man who threatened retaliation for the killings of unarmed black men.

Asked to rate the importance of 10 key stories, majorities call the expansion of the Islamic State militant group, the Ebola outbreak and the U.S. midterm elections extremely or very important stories. Nearly half rate immigration as that important, while 43 percent say so of the Brown and Garner stories. Only a third think the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the situation between Russia and Ukraine, or legal same-sex marriage were deeply important.

Few Americans rate this year’s crop of pop culture events as memorable, with one big exception: The death of Robin Williams, and the discussion of mental health issues. About two-thirds call that a memorable event.

The AP-Times Square Alliance Poll of 1,017 adults was conducted online Dec. 12-14. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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