Report

Public Not Desperate About Economy or Personal Finances

  • October 15, 2008

Americans are concerned about the nation's economic problems almost to the exclusion of every other issue, and they register the lowest level of national satisfaction ever measured in a Pew Research Center survey. Just 11% say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country – down 14 points in the past month alone.

However, there is little indication that the nation's financial crisis has triggered public panic or despair. Most Americans express confidence that the government still possesses the power to fix the economy, though that belief has lost adherents since July. There has been no decline in people's perceptions of their own financial situations. Looking ahead to next year, Americans are more confident than they were in July about an improvement in the national economy and in their own personal finances.

This is not to say that the public has been spared the effects of the financial crisis: over the past three weeks, there have been sharp increases in the percentages saying they plan to rein in spending in a number of areas. Moreover, for the first time in a Pew Research Center survey, more Americans say that “people should learn to live with less,” rather than that “there are no limits to growth in this country.” 

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 9-12 among 1,485 adults reached on landlines and cell phones, finds that an increasing number say that jobs are difficult to find locally, and views of local real estate values remain negative. In addition, fewer people than in February say that their employer is in excellent financial shape. But these perceptions notwithstanding, there are no signs that the crisis has eroded people's fundamental confidence in either their own personal financial outlook or the nation's. As in July, a solid majority of Americans (54%) says the economy is in a recession, and the percentage saying the nation is in depression has not grown significantly (22%). Compared with this summer, more Americans think that economic conditions will improve next year (46% vs. 30%). 

Read the full report Public Not Desperate About Economy or Personal Finances on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.