Americans’ Economic Outlooks Have Improved at the National, Regional, and Household Levels

NEW YORK , N.Y. – January 29, 2015 – The economy can be a tough thing to gauge. Soothsayers of all sorts report on short and long term outlooks, but an important thing to note is that the economy doesn’t exist in a vacuum. While many factors play into its ebb and flow, what people actually expect of it can become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, impacting spending and saving trends which can in turn have impacts on the economy as a whole. According to a recent Harris Poll, increasing percentages of Americans are reporting positive economic sentiments in regards to their household, their region, and the nation as a whole.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,232 adults surveyed online between January 14 and 20, 2015.

This month, a third (32%) of U.S. adults expect the economy to improve in the coming year, while 47% expect that it will remain the same and roughly two in ten (21%) expect it to get worse. Expectations that it will improve have grown since last month (when 28% were expecting improvement), as well as in comparison to January of 2014 (when 26% indicated the same).

  • Men (35%) are more likely than women (29%) to expect the economy to improve in the next year.
  • Nearly half of Democrats (48%) expect to see improvement in the economy, with three in ten Independents (30%) and only 15% of Republicans indicating the same.

On the home front

Turning a whole lot closer to home, while a slim majority of Americans (53%) say they expect their household’s financial condition to remain the same in the next six months, an increasing percentage (27%, up from 22% last month and 23% at the same time last year) expect it to be better. Roughly two in ten (21%, equal to last month but down considerably from January of 2014) say that it will be worse.

Regional job market

Looking at the job market in one’s own region, the perception that it’s good (30%) is on the rise in comparison to both the 26% rating it good in August (the last time the question was asked) and the 21% indicating the same in January of last year. It’s worth noting that the 38% of Americans rating the job market in their region as bad still outpaces those with positive sentiments, though equally worthy of mention is the fact that this percentage is down somewhat from last August (when 41% gave it a bad rating) and considerably from a year ago (when 48% indicated the same). Roughly a third of U.S. adults (32%) currently rate the present job market in their region neither good nor bad.

Looking ahead, 27% of Americans (identical to last August but up somewhat from last January’s 24%) believe the job market in their region will get better within the next six months, while 17% (down from 20% last August and 23% last January) believe it will be worse. The majority of U.S. adults (56%) believe that the job market in their region will remain the same.

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TABLE 1a

EXPECTATIONS FOR THE ECONOMY IN THE COMING YEAR – TREND

In the coming year, do you expect the economy to…?

Base: All adults

2009

2010

April

May

Aug

Sept

Oct

May

June

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

39

38

46

40

34

38

30

29

28

30

34

29

Stay the same

35

35

32

36

37

34

42

39

40

40

41

45

Get worse

26

27

22

24

29

28

28

32

32

30

25

26

2011

2012

2013

Feb

June

July

Sept

Oct

Dec

Feb

Dec

Feb

March

April

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

34

26

23

21

20

23

36

33

32

30

29

32

32

29

27

22

22

25

27

Stay the same

42

41

41

45

46

47

40

31

40

37

41

42

41

44

42

46

37

44

42

Get worse

25

33

37

34

34

29

24

36

28

33

29

25

27

27

31

32

41

32

32

2014

2015

Jan

Feb

Mar

May

June

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

26

26

24

26

22

25

22

26

27

28

32

Stay the same

44

43

45

48

51

46

49

45

51

50

47

Get worse

30

32

31

27

26

29

29

29

22

23

21

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 1b

EXPECTATIONS FOR THE ECONOMY IN THE COMING YEAR

By Generation, Gender & Political Party

In the coming year, do you expect the economy to…?

Base: All adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Political Party

Millennials

Gen. Xers

Baby Boomers

Matures

Male

Female

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

32

36

25

31

35

35

29

15

48

30

Stay the same

47

45

54

45

44

44

49

50

42

48

Get worse

21

19

21

24

21

21

22

36

10

22

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 2a

EXPECTATIONS FOR HOUSEHOLD FINANCIAL CONDITION IN NEXT SIX MONTHS

Thinking about your household’s financial condition, do you expect it to be better or worse in the next 6 months?

Base: All adults

2013

2014

Feb

Mar

April

May

June

July

Sept

Oct

Nov

Jan

Feb

Mar

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

BETTER (NET)

23

21

22

26

24

24

19

18

20

23

22

21

24

23

23

24

22

21

22

22

Much better

3

3

4

5

4

5

4

3

4

4

4

4

5

4

6

6

4

3

4

4

Somewhat better

20

17

18

20

20

19

15

15

16

18

19

17

20

19

18

18

18

18

18

19

Will remain the same

50

49

49

50

53

49

52

48

50

49

52

52

52

54

51

51

53

53

57

56

WORSE (NET)

27

30

28

24

23

26

29

34

30

29

26

27

23

23

26

25

25

26

21

21

Somewhat worse

20

21

20

18

17

18

21

24

19

19

18

19

17

17

18

17

18

18

16

15

Much worse

7

9

8

6

6

9

8

11

11

10

8

8

7

7

8

8

7

8

5

6

2015

Jan

%

BETTER (NET)

27

Much better

6

Somewhat better

21

Will remain the same

53

WORSE (NET)

21

Somewhat worse

15

Much worse

6

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 2b

EXPECTATIONS FOR HOUSEHOLD FINANCIAL CONDITION IN NEXT SIX MONTHS

By Generation, Gender & Political Party

Thinking about your household’s financial condition, do you expect it to be better or worse in the next 6 months?

Base: All adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Political Party

Millennials

Gen. Xers

Baby Boomers

Matures

Male

Female

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

BETTER (NET)

27

36

25

23

12

29

24

13

37

26

Much better

6

9

8

2

1

7

5

2

8

5

Somewhat better

21

27

17

21

11

23

20

12

29

21

Will remain the same

53

47

56

52

64

47

57

58

50

50

WORSE (NET)

21

17

19

25

23

24

18

29

13

24

Somewhat worse

15

12

13

18

19

18

13

22

9

17

Much worse

6

5

6

6

4

6

5

6

3

7

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 3a

RATING OF CURRENT JOB MARKET IN YOUR REGION – TREND

How would you rate the current job market of your region of the nation?

Base: All adults

2008

2009

2010

June

July

Jan

April

June

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Mar.

April

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

GOOD (NET)

28

30

6

12

9

8

10

10

8

9

10

8

10

Neither good nor bad

18

19

18

20

19

21

22

20

18

19

20

18

21

BAD (NET)

53

51

76

68

72

71

68

70

73

72

70

73

70

2010

2011

May

June

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

May

July

Sept

Oct

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

GOOD (NET)

12

10

12

10

13

11

13

13

15

13

16

12

11

9

Neither good nor bad

20

25

22

21

21

23

24

22

24

22

23

24

22

24

BAD (NET)

68

66

66

69

66

66

63

65

61

65

61

64

67

67

2012

2013

2014

2015

Jan

March

Feb

Aug

Oct

Jan

March

Aug

Jan

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

GOOD (NET)

14

20

21

23

20

21

20

26

30

Neither good nor bad

21

24

31

31

32

31

32

34

32

BAD (NET)

65

56

48

46

48

48

47

41

38

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 3b

RATING OF CURRENT JOB MARKET IN YOUR REGION – BY REGION

How would you rate the current job market of your region of the nation?

Base: All adults

Total

Region

East

Midwest

South

West

%

%

%

%

%

GOOD (NET)

30

27

30

33

29

Very good

4

2

2

7

3

Somewhat good

26

25

28

26

26

Neither good nor bad

32

32

34

28

35

BAD (NET)

38

40

36

39

36

Somewhat bad

27

27

25

29

27

Very bad

10

13

11

10

9

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 4a

EXPECTATIONS FOR JOB MARKET IN YOUR REGION OVER NEXT SIX MONTHS – TREND

How do you think that the job market in your region of the nation will change over the next 6 months?

Base: All adults

2009

2010

2011

Jan

April

June

Aug

June

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

May

July

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

BETTER (NET)

15

23

21

28

26

23

21

23

30

25

31

31

32

30

22

Will be much better

1

3

2

2

1

2

2

3

2

2

4

4

2

4

2

Will be somewhat better

14

20

19

26

25

21

19

20

28

23

26

27

30

26

20

Will remain the same

36

42

47

47

53

49

53

53

50

54

51

51

52

49

53

WORSE (NET)

49

36

32

25

21

27

26

24

21

22

18

18

16

21

25

Will be somewhat worse

36

29

24

19

15

22

20

18

15

16

13

13

11

14

17

Will be much worse

14

7

8

6

6

5

6

6

6

6

6

5

6

7

8

2012

2013

2014

2015

Jan

March

Feb

Aug

Oct

Jan

Mar

Aug

Jan

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

BETTER (NET)

27

33

28

25

20

24

23

27

27

Will be much better

2

3

2

3

1

2

2

3

3

Will be somewhat better

25

30

26

22

19

21

21

24

24

Will remain the same

53

50

52

52

53

53

55

53

56

WORSE (NET)

21

17

19

24

27

23

22

20

17

Will be somewhat worse

14

11

15

17

19

16

16

14

13

Will be much worse

7

6

5

7

8

7

7

6

4

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 4b

EXPECTATIONS FOR JOB MARKET IN YOUR REGION OVER NEXT SIX MONTHS – BY REGION

How do you think that the job market in your region of the nation will change over the next 6 months?

Base: All adults

Total

Region

East

Midwest

South

West

%

%

%

%

%

BETTER (NET)

27

27

24

25

31

Will be much better

3

2

2

3

4

Will be somewhat better

24

25

23

22

27

Will remain the same

56

54

58

58

53

WORSE (NET)

17

18

18

17

16

Will be somewhat worse

13

15

14

12

11

Will be much worse

4

3

4

5

4

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding


Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between January 14 and 20, 2014 among 2,232 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

The Harris Poll® #9, January 29, 2015

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll