Economy

Public’s Ratings of the U.S. Economy Remain Negative

by Joseph Carroll

Economic outlook, though improved from last month, is historically low

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' assessments of the U.S. economy continue to be pessimistic, according to a new Gallup Poll. Americans are about equally likely to describe current economic conditions as excellent or good as they are to describe them as poor. Roughly one in five Americans say economic conditions in this country are getting better, a slight improvement since last month, but still among the most negative Gallup has measured since 1992. The public's views of the nation's job market continue to deteriorate, with only about one in three saying now is a good time to find a quality job.

Current Economic Conditions

The Dec. 6-9, 2007, poll finds 28% of Americans describing current economic conditions as "excellent" (3%) or "good" (25%), while a similar percentage, 27%, describe them as "poor." Forty-five percent describe the economy as "only fair."

These economic ratings are similar to those from last month, and are among the most negative Gallup has measured this year. The excellent/good ratings of the last two months are a far cry from January's 52% excellent/good rating.

The current ratings are also very low from a historical standpoint. Since Gallup started tracking Americans' ratings of the economy in 1992, the percentage describing the economy as excellent or good has averaged 36%. The worst ratings occurred in 1992 and 1993, when between 10% and 18% of Americans rated the economy positively. The best ratings were in the late 1990s through early 2001, when between 60% and 74% rated the economy as excellent or good.

Economic Outlook

About one in five Americans, 21%, believe economic conditions in this country are getting better, while the vast majority -- 71% -- say conditions are getting worse.

These ratings have actually improved compared with last month, when just 13% said economic conditions were getting better and 78% said they were getting worse. November's ratings were the most negative Gallup has measured since it began asking the question in 1991. The current results are essentially the same as the results from the late summer and early fall of this year.

Good Time to Find a Quality Job?

The public's assessment of the nation's job market continues to deteriorate. Thirty-five percent of Americans say now is a good time to find a quality job, while 57% say it is a bad time. Perceptions of the job market have gradually declined over the course of the year. The percentage saying now is a good time to find a quality job began the year in the mid- to upper-40% range and stayed there through May; it then fell to 43% in June, and to 39% in September and October.

The current ratings of the job market are the worst since October 2005, when 35% also gave it a positive rating. But Americans' views of the job market are more positive now than at other points in recent years. The most negative ratings of the job market occurred in 2003, with a 16% "good time" and an 81% "bad time" rating in March of that year.

Partisanship, Income Related to Views of the Nation's Economy

Ratings of the nation's economy and the job market vary significantly by partisanship and household income.

Republicans are substantially more likely than independents or Democrats to assess the economy and the nation's job situation positively. A majority of Republicans think now is a good time to find a quality job, while 44% rate current economic conditions as excellent or good. Only about a third say the economy is getting better. In contrast, one in five Democrats rate current conditions positively and say now is a good time to find a quality job; only 12% believe the economy is getting better.

Americans residing in households earning $75,000 or more per year are much more likely than those earning less to rate current economic conditions positively and to say now is a good time to find a quality job. But ratings are not overly positive even among these high-income earners -- just 37% describe the nation's economy as excellent or good, only 24% say the economy is getting better, and fewer than half (46%) say now is a good time to find a quality job.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,027 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 6-9, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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