Americans More Pessimistic About Emerging From Recession

by Lymari Morales

Majority see the economy staying the same or getting worse

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Most Americans see the U.S. economy as stuck in a recession and the majority don't see or expect much improvement any time soon. A majority (54%) now expect the economy to be the same or worse in a year, up sharply from the 35% who expressed similar views a year ago. Americans are also now more likely to say the economy is staying the same or getting worse than to say it is getting better.

Americans' Views of the Economy Now and a Year From Now, 2009 vs. 2010

The USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted Aug. 27-30, 2010, echoes Gallup's Economic Confidence Index, which, using slightly different questions, also shows greater pessimism about the economy now than a year ago.

Americans' negativity has increased sharply even as the economy has posted four consecutive quarters of -- often meager -- economic growth. The National Bureau of Economic Research has yet to declare an official end to the recession and Americans are following suit. The percentage of Americans who say the economy is in a recession, now 82%, has barely budged from a year ago.

1991-2010 Trend: Do You Think the Economy Is Now in a Recession, or Not?

The Blue Chip Economic Indicators report, representing a group of U.S. economists, last week forecast that the U.S. economy would grow roughly 1.8% in the third quarter. Such a showing would barely beat the 1.6% growth from the second quarter, while falling well short of the 3.7% recorded during the first quarter. The sluggish and inconsistent growth, combined with continuing high unemployment and underemployment, helps explain why Americans are backpedaling on the relative optimism they expressed a year ago.

At least three in four Americans across the political spectrum continue to say the economy is in a recession. Further, Republicans, independents, and Democrats alike are more pessimistic about the economy's future direction than they were a year ago.

Americans' Views of the Economy Now and a Year From Now, by Party, 2009 vs. 2010

The findings no doubt illustrate the challenge for the Obama administration and others seeking to convince the American public that the billions of dollars spent to help revive the economy are generating results. With the midterm congressional elections approaching, the burden of proof falls on both President Barack Obama and Congress to show their work on this issue has not been in vain. Americans continue to see the economy as the most important problem facing the country as well as the most important issue to their vote -- and it appears fewer this year than last are happy with what they see.

Survey Methods

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 27-30, 2010, with a random sample of 1,021 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only 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, education, region, 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 continental 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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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