Economy

U.S. Economic Confidence Down in Recent Weeks

by Dennis Jacobe, Chief Economist

More Americans rate the economy "poor" and say it is "getting worse"

PRINCETON, NJ -- After improving slightly earlier this month, Gallup's Economic Confidence Index declined over the past two weeks to its current -33, matching the average for all of July.

Economic Confidence Index, Weekly Averages, Weeks Ending July 11-Aug 22, 2010, and July 12-Aug. 23, 2009

The July confidence numbers are the lowest of the year so far; thus, even with the slight uptick in early August, confidence remains below the levels seen during much of 2010 and below its depressed levels of a year ago.

"Poor" Ratings of Economy Are Near 2010 High

Forty-eight percent of Americans rated current economic conditions as "poor" during the week ending Aug. 22 -- approaching the highest levels of the year. This is marginally worse than the early August reading, is in line with the full July average of 47%, and is marginally worse than at this time in 2009.

Percentage of Consumers Saying Current Economy Is Poor, Weekly Averages, Weeks Ending July 11-Aug 22, 2010, and July 12-Aug. 23, 2009

Expectations Deteriorate

During recent weeks, slightly more consumers told Gallup they think economic conditions are "getting worse" than thought that was the case earlier this month. These expectations for the economy basically match the average for all of July and are worse than those consumers held at this time a year ago.

Percentage of Consumers Saying Economic Conditions Are Getting Worse, Weekly Averages, Weeks Ending July 11-Aug 22, 2010, and July 12-Aug. 23, 2009

Economic Confidence Worse Than a Year Ago

Gallup's economic confidence data show consumer confidence giving up its modest gains of late July and early August during recent weeks. These declines in consumer confidence are not surprising given the downturn on Wall Street, all the talk of an economic slowdown, and the growing fears of a double-dip recession.

In turn, the decline in Gallup's Economic Confidence Index suggests that Friday's Consumer Sentiment report is likely to show a decline from its earlier estimate for August -- but still exhibit a modest improvement compared with the average for all of July. As a result, Friday's report for the month may already be somewhat out of date even as it is released.

Gallup's underemployment measure suggests there has been little or no recent improvement in the job market, while Gallup's consumer spending measure shows essentially no improvement from a year ago. The stagnation in these measures, along with the decline in consumer confidence, seems consistent with another weak back-to-school season. Of course, the nation's retailers can still hope that many consumers are simply delaying their purchases until the last minute because of the current weak economy, not deciding to forgo them altogether.

Regardless, probably the most troubling aspect of the current economic confidence data is that they show no improvement from a year ago. In fact, Americans are slightly less optimistic about the future direction of the economy today than they were at this time in 2009. This is not good news for retailers or for incumbents facing re-election this November.

Gallup.com reports results from these indexes in daily, weekly, and monthly averages and in Gallup.com stories. Complete trend data are always available to view and export in the following charts:

Daily: Employment, Economic Confidence and Job Creation, Consumer Spending
Weekly: Employment, Economic Confidence, Job Creation, Consumer Spending

Read more about Gallup's economic measures.

Survey Methods

For Gallup Daily tracking, Gallup interviews approximately 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, each day. The Gallup economic confidence results are based on random half-samples of approximately 500 national adults, aged 18 and older, each day. Weekly results are based on telephone interviews with approximately 3,000 adults.

For these results, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.

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