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Worried About Economy? You Probably Live in the South

What’s gnawing at the Southern psyche?

While the CNBC All-America Economic Survey finds half of Americans are pessimistic about the future, Southerners are the most downbeat— with 56 percent saying they are worried and only 39 percent saying they are hopeful. Westerners are least pessimistic, at 43 percent.

Thirty-five percent of Southerners expect the economy to get worse over the next year, compared to just 23 percent of Midwesterners and 30 percent of all those polled. The South has been the nation’s most pessimistic region in at least three CNBC surveys, although the gap with the rest of the country is growing.

Southerners expect higher food pricesto last longer than the rest of the country. Fifty-six percent say the high prices will continue for 3 years or more, compared to just less than half overall and 43 percent in the Northeast.

But those in the Northeast are most pessimistic on gasoline prices. Forty-nine percent expect the pain at the pump to last at least three years, compared to 41 percent of all those surveyed and just 28 percent in the West.

Americans are reacting differently to those rising food and gas prices, depending on where they live.

Southerners and Midwesterners are most likely to cut back on day-to-day driving, travel, savings and spending on groceries, while Westerners and those living in the Northeast are least likely to cut back on travel and driving.

Southerners also expect a bigger increase in the cost of living in the next 12 months than those living elsewhere.

Residents of the South expect their living expenses to rise by an average 10.7 percent, compared to 9 percent of all those surveyed. Northeast residents are most optimistic about cost of living, expecting only a 6.6 percent jump.

Southerners are also the most negative on thestock market: 54 percent say it’s a bad time to invest.

The South was the only region more skittish on stocks than the 50 percent average of all poll respondents. Only 46 percent of Midwesterners think it’s a bad time to invest in the market, the nation’s most bullish region.

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