Americans Growing Worried about Economy, Their Financial Situation

August 23, 2007

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | Financial Services | Youth & Gen X

In the shadow of Wall Street volatility, a plurality of Americans says the economy is declining and one-third say their own personal finances have gotten worse from a year ago, according to a nationwide Harris Poll fielded in the second week of August.

Overview of poll results:

  • Just under half (45%) of US adults say the economy is declining, while three in ten say it is growing and 17% say it is neither growing nor declining.

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  • Some 32% say their personal economic situation is worse, compared with a year ago, while the same number say it is better and 31% say it is neither better nor worse.

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  • Moreover, over half (56%) of Americans say they are worried about their financial situation, though 44% say they are not worried.

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Regional differences

  • Over half (52%) of those in the Midwest see the economy as declining and 36% consider their own personal economic situation as worse than a year ago.
  • Those in the West, however, are of a different mind, with just under two in five (39%) viewing the national economy as declining and 36% saying their personal economic situation is better compared with a year ago.
  • In terms of being worried, almost two-thirds (63%) of those in the East say they are worried, compared with 52% of Southerners.

Politics and the economy

  • Neither the President nor Congress is given good marks by the public for handling of the economy:
    • Almost two-thirds (63%) view President George W. Bush’s job performance on the economy in a negative light while 71% view Congress’ job performance on the economy negatively.
    • Only one-quarter (27%) view President Bush positively on the economy, while just 14% say the same about Congress.

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  • As one might expect, Republicans are more likely to view the President’s performance in a positive light:
    • Three in five Republicans (59%) give the President positive marks on his handling of the economy, while 86% of Democrats view his performance negatively.
    • Just one-quarter (24%) of Independents say he is doing a good job on the economy, while 71% say it is negative.
  • Though partisans are of different mind about the President, the same is not true about Congress:
    • Seven in ten of both Republicans and Democrats (69% and 71%, respectively).
    • 79% of Independents view the job Congress is doing on the economy in a negative light.
  • As for which party can do a better job handling the economy and economic issues:
    • One-third (33%) say the Democrats can and one-quarter (27%) say the Republicans can, but two in five Americans (40%) are not sure.
    • Two-thirds of each party says their party is the one does a better job on the economy (66% of Republicans think Republicans do a better job, and 67% of Democrats think Democrats do a better job.)
    • Over half of Independents (54%) say they are not sure, while one-quarter say the Democrats do a better job and 21% say the Republicans do a better job.

Personal debt

  • One specific part of financial concerns is personal debt, things like credit card and mortgage payments:
    • One-third of Americans (35%) say that paying down their own personal debt is a problem while just over two in five (44%) say it is not a problem.
    • One in five Americans (20%) says they have no personal debt.

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    • One-third (33%) say that paying down this personal debt has become harder over the past year,  while 28% say it is neither easier nor harder and 18% say it has become easier.

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  • Different age groups have different attitudes toward personal debt:
    • Almost half (47%) of Gen Xers (those age 31-42) say paying down debt has become a problem, while 41% of this generation say it has become harder in the past year to pay down their personal debt. This is also the generation where the fewest have no personal debt (just 8%).
    • The youngest and oldest generations are the ones not as concerned about personal debt:
      •  Just one-quarter of Echo Boomers (those age 18-30) and Matures (those 62 and older) say paying down personal debt is a problem for them (26% and 25%, respectively).
      • Echo Boomers are also the ones with the least amount of personal debt, as two in five (39%) say they have none.

About the study: This Harris Poll was conducted online, by Harris Interactive, within the United States between August 7 and 13, 2007 among 2,694 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.

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