By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Where do Americans have the most hope?
In U.S. cities, that place is Provo-Orem, Utah, where 76 percent of residents say their area is becoming a better place to live, according to a Gallup poll released on Tuesday.
The findings show the Utah valley's metropolitan area closely followed by Lafayette, Louisiana; the Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina area; and Huntsville, Alabama.
The nation's least optimistic city? Binghamton, New York, where less than 28 percent see their area improving.
Flint, Michigan; Rockford, Illinois; and the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman area of Ohio and Pennsylvania were other pessimistic cities on Gallup's Healthways-Wellbeing Index.
Gallup, which based its survey on interviews with 353,492 adults across the United States, said it wasn't immediately clear why residents in some urban areas were more optimistic and satisfied with their communities compared to others, but that unemployment rates, income and other factors may be at play.
"Together, the data suggest there is likely a combination of factors that can create optimism about a community," it said in a statement releasing the results.
The national polling group also said what works in some of the best performing cities could provide an example for other regions to follow. It said leaders in more optimistic areas could "channel that positive energy into a community's economic and social infrastructure, in turn, creating the types of good jobs that help cities thrive."
"Alternately, communities in which residents lack optimism risk losing the very talent and energy they need to rise again," Gallup said.
Gallup's interviews were conducted throughout 2011. The poll's margin of error varied according to the size of the metro area, from less than 1 percentage point for larger cities to plus-or-minus 6.5 percentage points for smaller ones.
(Editing by Daniel Trotta)