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Mood Of The Nation: Some Optimism Amid Struggles

The Associated Press

On the eve of the 2012 elections, The Associated Press interviewed dozens of Americans to try to gauge the economic mood of the nation. People were asked about jobs, housing, gas prices, retirement and other issues.

Among them were:

â¿¿ Adrienne Cragnotti, 46, and Mike Eiler, 41, of Chicago. She's a self-employed photographer; he's an unemployed former copy editor. Despite career setbacks and a declining living standard, Cragnotti and Eiler remain optimistic.

â¿¿ Hilda Mitrani, 51, of North Miami Beach, Fla. The Great Recession and slow economic recovery have devastated her public relations and marketing business. But Mitrani says positive signs are emerging.

â¿¿ Vicki Williams, 47, of Mechanicsville, Va., outside Richmond. Williams feels secure in her job as an occupational therapist for a school district. Her view of the economy has brightened. Yet she worries that the nation has drifted away from a political culture that once seemed more inclined to help the needy.

â¿¿ Ray Arvin, 47, of Mineral Springs, N.C., outside Charlotte. Arvin has struggled financially since a business he owned that supplied the power and aviation industries collapsed in 2009. He worries about his future and about the direction of the federal government.

â¿¿ Jay Baker, 69, of Boca Raton, Fla. He owns a flooring business whose revenue dropped after the housing bust. Recently, though, Baker has begun to enjoy a recovery.

â¿¿ Amanda and Chris Folk, both 33, of Billings, Mont. The Folks have endured financial blows since the housing bubble burst. She's back in school. He's earning less money. They worry that their ability to regain financial security is blocked by corporations and their allies in Washington.

Their full stories are below. To watch video of these people, and for more on this topic, go to:

CHICAGO (AP) â¿¿ Job market frustrations are the one gray cloud hanging over Adrienne Cragnotti and Mike Eiler's adventuresome life together.

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