Economy

Americans' Financial Worries Becoming More Wide-Ranging

by Lymari Morales

Energy/Gas costs still the top problem, but to lesser degree overall

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A Gallup Poll update on Americans' personal financial problems shows that the public has shifted away from a hyperfocus on gas and energy prices and has started to voice increasing concerns about a wider range of money issues, including debt.

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In July, Americans' worries about three day-to-day pocketbook issues -- energy costs, an overall lack of money, and the high cost of living -- easily trumped anything else they could think of when asked to name the most important financial problem facing their families. But a Gallup Poll conducted Oct. 3-5 reflects a more broad-ranging picture today.

The percentage of Americans who single out energy costs in this open-ended question has decreased considerably, from 29% to 12%, coincident with a drop in gas prices. Now, it is one of several issues mentioned by about 1 in 10 Americans as their most pressing financial concern, along with lack of money, inflation, healthcare costs, and too much debt. There has been a modest increase since July in the percentage of Americans citing retirement savings, from 4% to 7%. However, the October poll was conducted before this past week's series of stock market losses, so it is possible that concerns about retirement have since increased.

Despite considerable demographic differences between Americans who support Barack Obama and those who support John McCain, there is not a great deal of difference in the financial concerns voiced by these two groups.

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Americans' financial concerns do, however, vary across income groups. Those with lower incomes are most likely to be worried about not having enough money, while those with higher incomes are most likely to mention retirement.

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With Gallup Polls indicating record levels of concern on the part of Americans about the U.S. economy and increasing signs of worry about personal financial situations, these data reveal that these signs of real economic anxiety are not driven by any paramount financial issue in Americans' eyes, but rather by a whole host of concerns. This in many ways echoes the financial crisis itself, which each day seems to touch more industries, companies, countries, and individuals.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,011 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 3-5, 2008. 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.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

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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