CNBC Survey: Feeling Better, but Still Leery About the Economy
CNBC Senior Economics Reporter
The poll of 836 Americans across the country found that 36 percent believe the economy will improve over the next year, a nearly 10-point gain from November, and the highest level of optimism since 2010.
Americans expect the biggest gains in their paychecks in nearly four years. They are also more upbeat about their homes: 22 percent expect their home’s value to increase in the next year, up from 15 percent last quarter and the highest level since December 2010.
In other findings of the survey:
• More than 51 percent of the public own an Apple product, with one in three owning more than one. The median American household has 1.6 Apple products.
• Gold is seen by the American public as the best investment right now, chosen by 37 percent of respondents. Real estate is a distant second with 24 percent followed by stocks at 19 percent.
• Some 65 percent of the public think it is better to own a home than to rent. That’s a sharp drop from 1996 when, asked by Fannie Mae, 90 percent of the public thought it was better to own.
• And 73 percent of Americans still believe owning a home is an essential part of the American dream, unchanged from the survey’s findings a year ago.
• More than half of Americans say the government should not intervene in the housing market to raise home values.
• President Obama gets a bit more of the blame for the recession than he did in October 2010, with 17 percent of the public saying he’s mostly responsible, up from 13 percent. Both the president and congressional Republicans took more of the blame for the rise in the budget deficit than when CNBC last asked the question in October 2010.
• In a warning signs for the president, independents are more likely to blame the president for economic problems such as unemployment and the recession than they were in 2010.
• Americans on average believe the government should not bail out the housing market; the Bush tax cut should not be extended and that millionaires should pay a 31 percent tax rate.
Despite improvement in key measures in the All-America Economic Survey, most remain far below their pre-recession levels.
For example, while 22 percent believe their home values will increase now, the figure was above 50 percent in March 2007. While Americans believe their wages on average will rise by 2.3 percent in the next year, that figure was 7.3 percent five years ago.
Significantly for President Barack Obama, only 28 percent of the public say they are better off now than they were four years ago, the lowest percentage recorded in a presidential election year going back to 1992.
In no demographic group — including Democrats, the wealthy or those expecting higher wages — do more than half of respondents say they are better off now. When President George H.W. Bush lost re-election in 1992, 37 percent of the public said they were better off under his presidency.
At least part of the underlying national economic malaise seems clearly to be tied to higher gasoline prices. The survey shows that 28 percent of Americans say high gasoline prices is their biggest worry, ranking it equal with concern over health care costs. The cost of retirement was a distant third at 14 percent.