Making predictions for the year to come is a kind of journalistic tradition, but with so much uncertainty pervading our daily lives, trying to guess what the future will bring in 2023 seems like an enterprise bound to go more than a little astray.
Instead, below we list the questions Yahoo News journalists have about the year to come — the questions that will motivate our reporting at home and abroad.
The answers to those questions could shape politics, foreign affairs, culture and everyday life.
1. Will President Biden run for a second term?
Joe Biden is known to express frustration over constant questions about his age, but he recently turned 80. The oldest sitting president, he is supposed to be a transition figure, ushering in a new generation of Democratic leaders. But his vice president, Kamala Harris, has failed to garner the kind of enthusiasm that would make such a baton passing feasible. Other would-be party leaders, like Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, are largely untested. Biden said he would make a final decision over the holidays. Whatever he decides will have huge implications for American politics in the year to come.
— Alexander Nazaryan
2. Will the Trump candidacy implode?
Donald Trump announced his third run for the presidency in November, shortly after several candidates he endorsed lost key senatorial and gubernatorial races. Since then, his poll numbers have continued to plummet, while his legal troubles continue to mount. Donors have continued to flock to other candidates, as have conservative media outlets that once celebrated him at every turn. So is this the end of Trump’s political career, or will his 2024 campaign find a way to recapture the insurgent energy of his first try for the White House?
3. Who are the Republican stars for 2024 we haven’t seen yet?
For more than six years, Trump has been the singularly dominant figure in Republican politics, but as he mounts his third bid for the White House, Republicans have been clamoring for new leadership.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has the buzz at the moment and is behaving like a frontrunner even though he hasn’t announced his plans yet. But veteran campaign operatives are slowly signing on with other possible Republican contenders, from former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to former Vice President Mike Pence.
Can DeSantis claim the MAGA mantle, or will he be undone by his hard-edged style? Does a moderate like Larry Hogan, the outgoing Maryland governor, have a chance? Or, when all is said and done, is the GOP still the party of Trump?
— Tom LoBianco
4. Will daylight saving time become permanent?
In March 2022, the Senate approved a bipartisan bill, named the Sunshine Protection Act, that would make daylight saving time permanent starting in 2023 — meaning Americans wouldn’t need to change their clocks twice a year.
While it isn’t the most pressing issue facing the U.S., Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., put it bluntly: “It’s one of those issues where there’s a lot of agreement. ... If we can get this passed, we don’t have to do this stupidity anymore.” The House of Representatives, however, failed to vote on the matter in 2022. The Biden administration said earlier this year it doesn’t have a “specific position” on the matter.
Americans, for their part, don’t want to “spring forward” or “fall back.” A YouGov poll found that 59% of them would be happy to see daylight saving time become permanent.
— Nicole Darrah
The Biden administration
5. Can the president overcome legislative gridlock?
Biden managed to pass a modest gun control bill in 2022, along with an infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act, which devoted billions to climate change. Yet much of his agenda remains unaccomplished. He has promised an assault weapons ban and wants to fix the nation’s broken immigration system. But with Republicans in control of the House, his ambitions are about to hit a brick wall. Will the president find a way through? And if not, will he and other Democrats use GOP recalcitrance as an argument for why they should retain — and reclaim — power in 2024?
6. Can Ukraine win the war with Russia?
Ukraine’s ability to defy expectations and embarrass the most learned Western military analysts has been as constant as the North Star. The war could remain largely static well into 2023. Then again, if Russian lines were to collapse everywhere from left bank Kherson to the so-called people’s republics of Luhansk and Donetsk in 2023, I would not be especially surprised.
— Michael Weiss
7. What will Putin do if he is faced with defeat?
This may be the most terrifying question of all, given that Russia has the largest stockpile of nuclear armaments in the world. Most experts do not believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin would resort to using nuclear weapons. Then again, defeat at the hands of a much-smaller Ukraine would be unthinkable to the Kremlin autocrat, who has fancied himself a modern-day czar on a mission to restore a mythic Slavic empire. Even if he refrained from using the deadliest weapons, Putin could immiserate Ukrainians with conventional attacks on key infrastructure, as he has already done. And thousands of Russian conscripts could die in the process. Many thousands already have.
COVID-19 and other diseases
8. Will the WHO declare an end to the pandemic?
It’s been exactly 1,022 days/33 months/nearly three years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be characterized as a pandemic. “‘Pandemic’ is not a word to use lightly or carelessly,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing on March 11, 2020. “It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear.” More than half a billion confirmed cases and 6.7 million deaths later, it turns out that the fear was justified. But with widely available vaccines helping to curb infections, hospitalizations and deaths, the WHO’s emergency committee for COVID-19 in October discussed for the first time the possibility of declaring an end to the pandemic. At that time, Ghebreyesus defended its decision not to drop the pandemic parlance. “While the global situation has obviously improved since the pandemic began, the virus continues to change,” he said. “This pandemic has surprised us before and very well could again.”
— Dylan Stableford
9. Could ‘long COVID’ be the next public health disaster, creating an impact on the economy that rivals that of the Great Recession?
“Long COVID” is a chronic illness resulting from a COVID-19 infection. While not much is known about the illness, it can be challenging for doctors to diagnose. The list of symptoms is in the hundreds, and they can be debilitating for people living with long COVID, which can also affect their ability to work and even to perform daily life activities. About 23 million Americans have been affected by the illness. CNBC reported that it may cost the U.S. economy $3.7 trillion, according to David Cutler, an economist at Harvard University, who said that’s roughly the cost of the Great Recession. If that estimate holds, could long COVID create the next public health disaster?
— Kate Murphy
10. Will there be a vaccine for RSV?
The final months of 2022 saw a surge in cases of respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV. It’s a common-cold-like illness, and most children in the U.S. get infected before age 2. After the number of cases fell in 2020 when schools and day care centers shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, it rebounded sharply this year, overwhelming hospitals nationwide. Experts say children are suffering more now because they were shielded from common illnesses during the pandemic. There could be inoculation against the virus in 2023, considering that four companies — Pfizer, GSK, Janssen and Bavarian Nordic — are in the final stages of human trials for an adult vaccine. Pfizer announced in November a study found that a vaccine for pregnant women was almost 82% effective at preventing RSV in the early months of their babies’ lives. Pfizer and GSK also recently announced their vaccines helped to protect senior citizens.
11. Will the U.S. fall behind foreign competitors on next-generation COVID vaccines?
The rapid development of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in 2020 positioned the U.S. as a global leader in COVID pharmaceutical innovation, but the pace of such innovation has slowed. White House COVID coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha recently said the “medicine cabinet has actually shrunk,” regarding tools to combat COVID-19, and has urged Congress to fund the development of next-generation vaccines (the so-called pan-coronavirus shot that would protect against different variants, intranasal vaccines, etc.). But with many legislators moving on to other concerns, can the United States remain on the vaccine vanguard?
— Laura Ramirez-Feldman
12. Will millions of Americans who qualify for Biden’s student debt relief program have their loans forgiven?
On Feb. 28, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear back-to-back oral arguments in two challenges to the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness program. At issue in the Department of Education v. Brown case: whether two student loan borrowers have Article III standing to challenge the Department of Education’s student debt relief — and whether the Biden administration has the power to adopt the plan. The same issues apply in the Biden v. Nebraska case, which was brought by six states: Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina. The Biden administration had requested permission from the justices to temporarily reinstate the debt relief program while litigation continued, but that request was rejected. Now the 26 million Americans who applied for student debt relief, 16 million of whom had their applications approved, remain in limbo until SCOTUS weighs in.
13. Could it be unconstitutional for colleges to consider race as one factor, among many, in the admissions process?
The Supreme Court will make a decision, likely in June 2023, about two cases heard in October 2022 that challenge race-based admissions policies at Harvard University, the nation’s oldest private college, and the University of North Carolina (UNC), the nation’s oldest public university. The plaintiff in both cases, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), is asking the Supreme Court to overturn its prior precedent (Grutter v. Bollinger) that allows the narrow use of race in college admissions decisions. SFFA argues that Harvard’s policy violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits recipients of federal funds from discriminating based on race. In the UNC case, SFFA argues that the university’s policy violates Title VI in addition to violating the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of a person’s equal protection under the law, which covers state universities. The makeup of the Supreme Court changed significantly during Trump’s presidency, tilting to a six-to-three conservative majority. Will this case upend the admissions process for colleges and universities in 2023?
14. What will become of abortion rights?
The Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, revoking the nearly 50-year-old constitutional right to an abortion, was one of the most consequential — and controversial — moments of 2022. With abortion rights now in the hands of individual states, the U.S. has quickly become a confusing patchwork of total bans, partial bans and some bans that are still in limbo as courts determine whether they can go into effect.
Several states have already had abortion referendums on the ballot, so we’ll see what else unfolds in 2023 as activists on both sides fight to codify their causes into state law; and at the federal level, we’ll see what becomes of Democrats’ efforts (or lack thereof) to enshrine abortion rights, as well as a Republican-led bill to ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
— Rebecca Corey
Race and social justice
15. Is this finally the moment for reparations?
Evanston, Ill., made history last year by becoming the first U.S. city to issue slavery reparations. And since then, cities like Providence, R.I., St. Paul, Minn., and Asheville, N.C., have reached advanced stages of forming their own programs. But California took the biggest step this month by putting together a first-in-the-nation statewide task force to quantify how financial compensation would be calculated for Black Californians. Critics say their tax dollars shouldn’t pay for past harms that current residents had nothing to do with, while proponents argue that present-day harms continue to multiply because disparities continue to go unchecked and unaccounted for. Will other states follow California in atoning for past injustices?
— Marquise Francis
16. Is the debate over Confederate statues finally over?
Earlier this month Richmond, Va., removed its last standing Confederate statue, of Gen. Ambrose P. Hill. Congress also in December voted to remove a bust of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, who authored the notorious Dred Scott decision of 1857. Since 2017, when a group of white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, Va., for the deadly “Unite the Right” rally, more than 100 monuments have been removed across the South. As the reckoning over the country’s history continues, how many more of those monuments will fall in 2023?
— Jayla Whitfield-Anderson
17. Will the GOP in Congress stop climate action?
House Republican leaders have said they intend to demand that Democrats accede to domestic discretionary spending cuts, and they are willing to hold the debt ceiling — and by extension the whole economy — hostage to extract those concessions. So will they successfully defund the Inflation Reduction Act’s spending on deploying clean energy and electric vehicles? Will they undermine the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions by slashing the agency’s budget?
— Ben Adler
18. Will Congress pass permitting reform?
Experts say that the United States needs to ease the regulatory pathway to building new energy infrastructure, like new electricity transmission lines, that is needed to expand a renewable-powered energy system. But congressional Republicans won’t vote for that without measures to also accelerate fossil fuel infrastructure, like oil and gas pipelines, and progressive Democrats won’t support that. Will the legislative logjam break?
Technology, culture and society
19. Is AI going to steal my job?
Maybe not my job specifically — but artificial intelligence art programs and text generators are advancing at a truly remarkable speed. In just the last six months, we’ve seen creative applications of AI go from fun but deeply flawed to truly impressive, seemingly original works of art. AI text generators have better grammar than I do, and AI images have developed incredible fidelity. But they can’t come up with their own ideas, find out new information, or properly draw hands with five fingers quite yet. There is also fierce criticism that these tools are being built off unpaid work by real, human artists and writers the machines train themselves on. So far, the most popular of these tools have been released in early forms by smaller companies and the applications are limited, but once tech giants like Google join, will there be any room for course correction?
— Sam Matthews
20. Attention has been focused on the user bans, short-lived initiatives and corporate drama over at Twitter, but what will happen to TikTok?
At least 14 states have banned TikTok on state-owned devices over security concerns. There is also skepticism in Washington over the app, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. Congress recently passed a spending bill that includes a ban on the app for federal-government-owned devices. FBI Director Christopher Wray has said he is “extremely concerned” about TikTok in the U.S., saying that the Chinese government could use the app to compromise devices, collect user data or engage in “influence operations.” Will the Biden administration — which is in negotiations with TikTok over potential national security risks — come to an agreement with the social media app so it can still be available to its tens of millions of U.S. users?
— Dean Arrindell
21. Will Twitter survive Elon Musk?
The Tesla and SpaceX CEO’s $44 billion takeover of the social media juggernaut has been tumultuous from the start. He promptly fired several longtime top Twitter executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal and the head of legal policy, trust and safety for the platform, installed himself as chief executive and oversaw a series of impulsive, head-scratching decisions, including the restoration of previously banned accounts, such as those of Kanye West and Donald Trump. He then launched a poll asking Twitter users whether he should step down as CEO, saying he would abide by the survey’s results, which found 57.5% wanted him to resign, while 42.5% wanted him to stay. As of this writing, Musk says he will make good on his pledge. “I will resign as CEO as soon as I find someone foolish enough to take the job!” he tweeted.
22. Will office workers keep working from home?
The world, by many measures, has returned to relative normalcy: Mask and distancing mandates are largely gone. Businesses, those that survived, are open. But life has certainly changed, and some people want to continue to work from home. Whether it’s fully remote or a hybrid schedule, many workers are looking for some kind of remote option for a variety of reasons. At the same time, many civic and business leaders want workers to come back to the office. Three years into the pandemic, will the work-from-home revolution fizzle out?
23. Will Tom Brady retire in 2023?
The NFL great retired in February after the 2021 season (and 20 seasons with the New England Patriots) but came back just 40 days later to play a third season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brady, now 45, has said there’s “no retirement in my future.” He said that when he does retire for good, however, “that’s it for me.” If the quarterback — who has won seven Super Bowls — comes back for a 24th season in 2023, he’ll be a free agent.