WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gallup's U.S. Economic Confidence Index increased slightly to -15 for the week ending Feb. 23, after registering -17 or lower the prior four weeks. While the index is still negative, it is nearing the highest weekly average in 2014 to date: -13 found in early January, before the Dow Jones Industrial Average took a major dive. It is still below the readings of -10 and higher found at times last year.
Weekly economic confidence plummeted to -22 last March, when the government sequester went into effect, forcing the trimming of many federal budget items. However, confidence rebounded and reached -3 in June. That was not only the highest for 2013, but the highest to date in Gallup's weekly trends since 2008.
Gallup's Economic Confidence Index is the average of two components; Americans' perceptions of current economic conditions and their opinions of whether the economy is improving or getting worse.
Last week, 18% of Americans rated the current economy as "excellent" or "good," while 36% rated the economy as "poor." This resulted in a current conditions score of -18, the same as the week before and consistent with scores so far in 2014.
Americans' views about the economy's direction improved, however. Last week's -11 net economic outlook score is based on 42% of Americans saying the U.S. economy is getting better and 53% saying it is getting worse. This is an increase over the -16 score of the week before. The high economic outlook score for 2014 is -8 from early January.
While most Americans remain more negative than positive about current economic conditions, more of them today than in the recent past believe the economy is improving. This could be in response to an improving stock market over the past few weeks.
Unemployment returned to the top of Gallup's "most important problem" list this month, with general mentions of the economy continuing to rank as the second-highest issue Americans think of when asked to name the top problem facing the U.S. today. The economy and jobs clearly remain top-of-mind for Americans when thinking about the nation's challenges, despite this small uptick in confidence.
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:
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Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 17-23, 2014, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 3,536 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
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 www.gallup.com.