It's possible, however, that several temporary factors are driving the current surge in optimism and these may or may not have staying power. Lower gas prices have led to expected inflation of just 2 percent, the lowest on record for the survey.
Many economists have pointed to plunging gas prices as a catalyst for increased holiday spending, and that may yet come to pass. But only 8 percent of shoppers who plan to spend more on holiday gifts this year cite lower gas prices as the reason, compared with a third who cite higher incomes.
Read MoreLower gas might not directly boost holiday sales
In the wake of the GOP victory in the Senate, Republican optimism over the outlook for the economy rose to the highest level since December 2009. However, Republicans still are net pessimistic on the economic outlook compared to Democrats who are net positive.
Higher stock prices also seem to be buoying American spirits, with 41 percent saying now is a good time to invest, a 10-point gain. Better sentiment about the market goes beyond just the wealthy or those who are heavily invested in stocks. Blue collar workers and those with incomes between $50,000 and $70,000 all registered their most upbeat views on stocks since 2008. And for the first time since 2008, women are net positive about stocks (that is, those saying it's a good time to invest minus those saying it's a bad time.) In general, women have been more pessimistic on equities than men during the recession and expansion.
Read MoreNear-perfect sell signal says stocks should drop
Optimism over stock prices appears to be highly correlated with year-over-year changes in the Dow, so a decline in stock prices would knock that leg of the stool out.