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NBC/WSJ Poll: Most Americans Are Worried About a Recession

More than two thirds of Americans believe the U.S. economy is either in recession now or will be in the next year, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

That assessment comes despite the fact that, since the recession that ended early in President Bush's term, the U.S. economy has experienced sustained growth with low inflation and unemployment and generally rising stock values.

The NBC/Journal poll also reflected some mixed feelings about the economy. Just 15% and 16%, respectively, rated current conditions as very good or very bad. Yet growth in consumer spending has slowed, and concerns over health costs, job security and the rich-poor gap have left Americans downbeat about the road ahead.

“They’re ambivalent about the current economy but pessimistic about the future,” says Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, who conducts the Journal/NBC survey with Democratic counterpart Peter Hart.

“The macro-economy is reasonably healthy,” observes Mr. Corzine, former CEO of Goldman Sachs. “But the reality for the majority of America is they’re lucky if they hold on….The numbers are different from what the feel is on Wall Street.”

Poll respondents expressed limited anxiety about the affects of either the housing market decline or stock market turbulence on their personal circumstances. Just 20% said shifting stock values lately have had a negative impact on their finances, while 17% said the same about home price declines.

But the poll shows that Wall Street itself is a target of public ire. Just 16% expressed substantial confidence in the financial industry, slightly below those expressing confidence in the energy industry (18%) or the pharmaceutical industry (17%). Large corporations (11%) and health insurance companies (10%) fared even worse.

One bright spot for the world of commerce: fully 54% of Americans expressed high confidence in small businesses, which tied with law enforcement agencies for the second ranking behind the U.S. military among institutions rated by respondents.

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