Some Glimmers of Optimism on the Economy

    NEW YORK, N.Y. – February 1, 2011 – There is a sense of optimism returning to the American people. They are feeling better about President Obama , the direction of the country and, albeit to a lesser degree, Congress. And, it seems they are also feeling slightly better about the economy. One-third of Americans (33%) give President Obama positive ratings on his handling of the economy while two-thirds (67%) give him negative ratings. In December, three in ten U.S. adults (30%) gave the President positive ratings and 70% gave him negative marks on the economy.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,566 adults surveyed online between January 17 and 24, 2011 by Harris Interactive. This survey was conducted before the President delivered his State of the Union address.

    Looking back as well as forward

    Compared to last year, Americans feel slightly more secure about their financial situation. One-quarter (23%) say they feel more secure now, 37% say they feel the same as last year and just under two in five (38%) feel less secure about their financial situation. Last year, when compared to the previous year, less than one in five (19%) felt more secure and over two in five (42%) felt less secure.

    Looking ahead, over one-quarter of Americans (27%) say they expect their own household finances to be better in the next six months and the same number (27%) expect them to be worse while 46% say they will be the same. In October, 22% of U.S. adults thought their finances would be better, half (49%) thought they would be the same and 29% felt they would be worse.

    Savings

    One of the stories about this financial crisis has been about savings. Some say people-even those who may not have been laid off-have been building nest eggs to prepare for the worst. But, that may not be true. While one-quarter of Americans (25%) say they are saving more than they were in 2008 before the downturn in the economy, one-third (35%) are saving the same amount and two in five (40%) are saving less than they were. When compared to one year ago, one in five (21%) are saving more, two in five (42%) are saving the same amount and 37% are saving less. If the economy is getting better, maybe the savings are happening more recently? Well, compared to three months ago, over half of Americans (53%) are saving the same amount, 16% are saving more and three in ten (31%) are saving less.

    The job market

    The one area where optimism seems to not have returned is the job market. Almost two-thirds of Americans (65%) say the current job market in their region of the country is bad, up from 63% who said this in December. One in five (22%) say it is neither good nor bad and 13% say it is good; the same number of Americans who said it was good in December. The Midwest region seems to be in the worst shape as just 9% of Midwesterners say the job market in their region is good while 72% say it is bad. Easterners seem to be better off as almost one in five of them (18%) say the job market in their region is good and three in five (61%) say it is bad.

    But there is a glimmer of hope. Three in ten Americans (31%) say they believe the job market in their region will be better in six months while half (51%) say it will stay the same and 18% say it will be worse. In December, one-quarter of U.S. adults (25%) said the job market would be better in six months while 22% believed it would be worse.

    So What?

    This is the one area where President Obama needs the optimism to hold. If current feelings on economic conditions continue to improve, he will finally be able to move on to the other things on his agenda. If, however, they take a step backwards, not only will the rest of his agenda become in jeopardy, so will his re-election chances.

     

    TABLE 1

    PRESIDENT OBAMA’S JOB RATING ON THE ECONOMY – TREND

    Now, turning to something different, how would you rate the overall job that President Barack Obama is doing on the economy?

    Base: All adults

    2009

    March

    April

    May

    June

    Aug

    Sept

    Nov

    Dec

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    POSITIVE (NET)

    47

    49

    46

    43

    39

    40

    34

    36

    Excellent

    13

    13

    10

    3

    9

    7

    6

    6

    Pretty good

    34

    36

    36

    34

    31

    33

    27

    30

    NEGATIVE (NET)

    53

    51

    54

    57

    61

    60

    66

    64

    Only fair

    30

    27

    30

    27

    25

    27

    30

    30

    Poor

    23

    24

    24

    30

    36

    33

    37

    34

    2010

    2011

    Jan

    March

    April

    May

    June

    Aug

    Sept

    Oct

    Nov

    Dec

    Jan

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    POSITIVE (NET)

    31

    32

    33

    36

    32

    32

    29

    27

    31

    30

    33

    Excellent

    5

    5

    6

    6

    5

    6

    5

    5

    5

    5

    7

    Pretty good

    25

    27

    27

    30

    27

    26

    24

    22

    26

    25

    26

    NEGATIVE (NET)

    69

    68

    67

    64

    68

    68

    71

    73

    69

    70

    67

    Only fair

    31

    30

    31

    29

    32

    29

    31

    33

    30

    34

    30

    Poor

    39

    37

    36

    34

    37

    39

    40

    39

    39

    36

    37

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

     

    TABLE 2A

    FINANCIAL SECURITY

    Compared to last year, how secure do you feel about your financial situation?

    Base: All adults

    Total

    Political Affiliation

    Generation

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Echo Boomers

    (18-34)

    Gen. X

    (35-46)

    Baby Boomers

    (47-65)

    Matures

    (66+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    MORE SECURE (NET)

    23

    11

    37

    18

    33

    18

    20

    20

    Much more secure

    7

    2

    13

    4

    13

    3

    5

    5

    Somewhat more secure

    16

    10

    24

    14

    20

    15

    15

    15

    Same as last year

    37

    32

    38

    39

    38

    37

    37

    34

    LESS SECURE (NET)

    38

    56

    22

    41

    26

    43

    42

    47

    Somewhat less secure

    20

    26

    13

    23

    13

    22

    23

    23

    Much less secure

    18

    29

    9

    18

    13

    20

    19

    23

    Not sure

    2

    1

    3

    2

    3

    2

    2

     

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

    Note: indicates less than 0.5%

     

    TABLE 2B

    FINANCIAL SECURITY – TREND

    Compared to last year, how secure do you feel about your financial situation?

    Base: All adults

    2008

    2009

    2010

    2011

    %

    %

    %

    %

    MORE SECURE (NET)

    21

    12

    19

    23

    Much more secure

    4

    3

    5

    7

    Somewhat more secure

    17

    9

    14

    16

    Same as last year

    34

    30

    36

    37

    LESS SECURE (NET)

    38

    56

    42

    38

    Somewhat less secure

    24

    33

    23

    20

    Much less secure

    14

    23

    20

    18

    Not sure

    7

    3

    2

    2

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

     

    TABLE 3

    PERSONAL FINANCIAL EXPECTATIONS FOR THE NEXT 6 MONTHS – TREND

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

    Base: All adults

    2008

    2009

    Feb

    Mar

    June

    Nov

    Jan

    Mar

    April

    May

    June

    Aug

    Sept

    Oct

    Nov

    Dec

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    BETTER (NET)

    39

    33

    40

    24

    20

    20

    23

    25

    21

    24

    23

    23

    18

    19

    Will remain the same

    28

    28

    25

    43

    48

    46

    46

    45

    45

    48

    48

    45

    47

    48

    WORSE (NET)

    34

    39

    36

    33

    32

    35

    31

    30

    33

    28

    29

    31

    35

    33

    2010

    2011

    Jan

    Mar

    April

    May

    June

    Aug

    Sept

    Oct

    Jan

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    BETTER (NET)

    21

    21

    22

    25

    21

    22

    22

    22

    27

    Will remain the same

    49

    47

    50

    47

    52

    52

    50

    49

    46

    WORSE (NET)

    30

    32

    29

    28

    27

    26

    28

    29

    27

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

     

    TABLE 4

    PERSONAL FINANCIAL EXPECTATIONS FOR THE NEXT 6 MONTHS – BY GENERATION AND 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

    Political Party

    Echo

    Boomers

    (18-34)

    Gen X

    (35-46)

    Baby

    Boomers

    (47-65)

    Matures

    (66+)

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    BETTER (NET)

    27

    39

    24

    23

    17

    16

    40

    23

    Will be much better

    6

    12

    4

    4

    4

    3

    12

    4

    Will be somewhat better

    21

    27

    20

    19

    13

    13

    28

    20

    Will remain the same

    46

    45

    53

    45

    44

    42

    47

    48

    WORSE (NET)

    27

    16

    23

    33

    39

    42

    13

    29

    Will be somewhat worse

    18

    12

    14

    22

    29

    29

    10

    20

    Will be much worse

    8

    4

    9

    10

    10

    12

    4

    8

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

     

    TABLE 5A

    COMPARING SAVINGS

    Are you saving more or less now than you were…?

    Base: All adults

    MORE (NET)

    Much more

    Somewhat more

    Same

    LESS

    (NET)

    Somewhat less

    Much

    less

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    In 2008 before the downturn in the economy

    25

    10

    14

    35

    40

    16

    24

    A year ago

    21

    7

    14

    42

    37

    17

    20

    Three months ago

    16

    5

    11

    53

    31

    14

    17

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

     

    TABLE 5B

    COMPARING SAVINGS – TREND

    Are you saving more or less now than you were…?

    Summary of those saying more

    Base: All adults

    2010

    2011

    Generation

    Echo

    Boomers

    (18-34)

    Gen X

    (35-46)

    Baby

    Boomers

    (47-65)

    Matures

    (66+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    In 2008 before the downturn in the economy

    18

    25

    39

    20

    19

    13

    A year ago

    NA

    21

    37

    17

    14

    11

    Three months ago

    14

    16

    27

    15

    11

    5

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding; NA indicates not asked that year

     

     

    TABLE 6A

    RATING OF CURRENT JOB MARKET – TREND

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

    Base: All adults

    2008

    2009

    June

    July

    Jan

    April

    June

    Aug

    Sept

    Oct

    Nov

    Dec

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    GOOD (NET)

    28

    30

    6

    12

    9

    8

    10

    10

    8

    9

    Neither good nor bad

    18

    19

    18

    20

    19

    21

    22

    20

    18

    19

    BAD (NET)

    53

    51

    76

    68

    72

    71

    68

    70

    73

    72

    2010

    2011

    Jan

    Mar.

    April

    May

    June

    Aug

    Sept

    Oct

    Nov

    Dec

    Jan

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    GOOD (NET)

    10

    8

    10

    12

    10

    12

    10

    13

    11

    13

    13

    Neither good nor bad

    20

    18

    21

    20

    25

    22

    21

    21

    23

    24

    22

    BAD (NET)

    70

    73

    70

    68

    66

    66

    69

    66

    66

    63

    65

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

     

    TABLE 6B

    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)

    13

    18

    9

    15

    10

    Very good

    4

    12

    2

    1

    2

    Somewhat good

    9

    6

    7

    14

    8

    Neither good nor bad

    22

    20

    19

    23

    23

    BAD (NET)

    65

    61

    72

    61

    67

    Somewhat bad

    37

    39

    37

    36

    35

    Very bad

    28

    22

    35

    25

    32

    Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding; indicates less than 0.5%

     

     

    TABLE 7

    EXPECTATIONS FOR JOB MARKET IN 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

    Jan. 2009

    April 2009

    June 2009

    August 2009

    June 2010

    Aug 2010

    Sept 2010

    Oct 2010

    Nov 2010

    Dec 2010

    Jan 2011

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    BETTER (NET)

    15

    23

    21

    28

    26

    23

    21

    23

    30

    25

    31

    Will be much better

    1

    3

    2

    2

    1

    2

    2

    3

    2

    2

    4

    Will be somewhat better

    14

    20

    19

    26

    25

    21

    19

    20

    28

    23

    26

    Will remain the same

    36

    42

    47

    47

    53

    49

    53

    53

    50

    54

    51

    WORSE (NET)

    49

    36

    32

    25

    21

    27

    26

    24

    21

    22

    18

    Will be somewhat worse

    36

    29

    24

    19

    15

    22

    20

    18

    15

    16

    13

    Will be much worse

    14

    7

    8

    6

    6

    5

    6

    6

    6

    6

    6

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

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between January 17 to 24, 2011 among 2,566 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, Harris Interactive 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 Interactive 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 the Harris Interactive 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 Harris Interactive.

    J39369

    Q705, 710, 715, 720, 725, 730

    The Harris Poll® #12, February 1, 2011

    By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll, Public Relations and Youth Research, Harris Interactive