My former employer has published a survey of business people around the world conducted in early November. It’s not particularly surprising, but I especially liked this chart (free registration required), according to which a plurality (39% to 38%) of North American companies think that their profits this fiscal year will be better than last fiscal year. (The “current” fiscal year ends sometime between November 2008 and October 2009, so in most cases it includes the steep part of the downturn.) The global numbers are 38% up and 43% down.
Maybe being an executive at a large company selects for unnaturally optimistic people. I’ve always suspected that there is a significant, quantifiable optimism bias to the statements of business people, even their private ones. (Their public ones, of course, are colored by the desire to positively influence their stock price, which can lead to some interesting results.) It’s something I’ve thought of studying but never had the time for. If anyone knows of any research, let me know.