Republicans All Alone in Viewing the Economy as in Good Shape

by Frank Newport

Independents and Democrats are quite negative

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans continue to resist giving the nation's economy positive ratings, regardless of what so-called "hard" economic indicators may show. Only about a third of Americans rate the current economy as excellent or good and 6 out of 10 say the economy is getting worse, not better. In general, these ratings are slightly worse than earlier this year, although still not as negative as they were early last fall after Hurricane Katrina and the rapid run-up in the price of gasoline. Views of the economy remain highly partisan, with Republicans the most positive, Democrats most negative, and independents somewhere in the middle. Independents in particular have become more negative in their views of the economy this year, and now are much closer to the negative attitudes of Democrats than to the more rosy views of Republicans.

Basic Indicators

Gallup routinely measures two basic indicators of consumer views of the national economy: ratings of current economic conditions, and views as to whether the economy is getting better or getting worse. The trends on both are presented in these graphs:

Both indicators reflect generally downbeat attitudes. Well less than half of Americans rate the economy as excellent or good, while 45% say it is only fair and 20% say it is poor.

How would you rate economic conditions in this country today -- as excellent, good, only fair, or poor?

Excellent

Good

Only fair

Poor

No opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Mar 13-16

4

30

45

20

1

Less than 3 out of 10 say the U.S. economy is getting better:

Right now, do you think that economic conditions in the country as a whole are getting better or getting worse?

Getting better

Getting worse

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

%

%

%

%

(NA) 2006 Mar 13-16

29

61

8

2

(vol.) Volunteered response

(NA) National Adults

Additionally, both indicators have gradually drifted in a slightly more negative direction this year. Consumer ratings today are similar to what they were last summer, although not as negative as in the month or two following Hurricane Katrina in late August of last year. Year to year, consumer economic attitudes are roughly similar to where they were in late March of last year.

The economic outlook is not at the lowest point of the Bush administration, however. In February 2003, for example, only 18% of Americans rated the economy as excellent or good, and in March of that year just 23% say that the economy was getting better. The high point of the Bush administration on ratings of current conditions came just as Bush was inaugurated for the first time in February 2001, when 51% of Americans rated the economy as excellent or good. Americans were most positive about the direction of the economy (for the Bush administration) in January 2004, when 66% said that economic conditions were getting better.

Partisan Attitudes

It should come as no surprise to find that overall measures of satisfaction and ratings of the president and Congress are strongly partisan in nature, i.e., that Republicans at this point are positive while Democrats are negative.

It may be a little more surprising to find that these same partisan orientations underlie views of the economy. Republicans, currently in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, are most positive about the economy. Democrats are most negative. Independents are in the middle:

There has been little major change in Democrats' attitudes across these first three months of 2006. Democrats became slightly more negative about current economic conditions in February and have remained negative in March. There has been virtually no change in Democrats' views of whether or not the economy is getting better or getting worse so far this year.

There has been more change among independents. Their rating of current economic conditions (based on the percent rating the economy as excellent or good) is 13 percentage points lower now than it was in January, and the percent of Independents saying the economy is getting better is now 12 points lower than in January.

Republicans have become slightly more negative in March.

The net impact of these changes has been to leave Republicans a little more alone with their upbeat assessments of the economy. Independents are now more likely to resemble Democrats in their negativity rather than to be midway in between the two partisan groups. And the differences remain highly significant. Even today, a majority of Republicans rate current economic conditions as excellent or good, and a majority say the economy is getting better. Far fewer independents or Democrats agree.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 13-16, 2006. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error attributable to sampling and other random effects 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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