The singer was speaking ahead of the opening of a exhibition of his art in London this week.
"Well, you know right now America is in a state of upheaval," he said in an interview with The Times. “Poverty is demoralising. You can't expect people to have the virtue of purity when they are poor.
"But we've got this guy out there now who is redefining the nature of politics from the ground up... Barack Obama. He's redefining what a politician is, so we'll have to see how things play out. Am I hopeful? Yes, I'm hopeful that things might change. Some things are going to have to."
Dylan famously wrote several "protest songs" about social and political change in the 1960s. He later distanced himself from his roles as a campaigner and leader.