CNBC All-America Economic Survey: CNBC's Steve Liesman: American Dream is Back

American Dream Is Back: CNBC All-America Economic Survey

Published: Tuesday, 26 Mar 2013

By: Steve Liesman, CNBC Senior Economics Reporter

Housing and stocks are back.

Key measures of the nation's attitudes toward their homes and the stock market surged in the latest CNBC All-America Economic Survey to their highest levels since the beginning of the financial crisis.

The percentage of Americans who believe their home prices will increase in the next year rose 9 points to 33 percent in the March survey compared to November, the biggest jump in the survey's six-year history. It hasn't been this high since December 2007, although it remains below the high-water mark when the survey began in March 2007 and 48 percent of Americans believed their home prices would increase.

Americans on average see their home values rising 1.6 percent in the next 12 months, up from 0.1 percent in November, but below the 4 percent expectation in March 2007. The percentage of Americans who say that owning a home remains an essential part of the American dream grew by 3 points to 79 percent. Americans increasingly believe owning a home is better than renting, up 4 points to 69 percent compared with March 2012, when CNBC last asked the question.

There was similar rise in optimism about stocks.

Forty-percent of Americans now say it's a good time to invest, up from 31 percent in November and the best level since December 2009. But that level was accompanied by greater pessimism when 48 percent of the public thought it was a bad time to invest. In March 2013, just 39 percent of the public thought it was a bad time to invest.

Uncertainty remains high with 21 percent now unsure if it's a good or bad time to invest, up from 11 percent in December 2009.

While such optimism about stocks and the housing market would be expected to go along with greater optimism on the economy overall, that was not the case in the March survey.

Americans' assessment of the current state of the economy and their outlook barely budged from depressed levels. Sixty percent of the public is pessimistic now about the current situation and about the future, up from 56 percent in November. The reasons for the continued pessimism could be because Americans grew more downbeat in expectations for their wage gains and for inflation.

Despite a better view on stocks, Americans remain bedazzled by gold.

It topped the list for the second time when Americans were asked their opinions of the best investment. Gold was the top pick of 35 percent respondents, followed by real estate at 27 percent and stocks at 21 percent. The data show that the most ardent gold bugs among Americans are those who count themselves as Tea Party supporters and those who believe their home values will go down in the next 12 months.

The survey also found a significant shift in how Americans believe the deficit should be cut.

The percentage of Americans who support reducing the deficit only with spending cuts grew by 12 points to 28 percent in March compared with November. The percentage supporting a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes fell to 55 percent from 67 percent. Only 4 percent of Americans support cutting the deficit only through tax hikes.

The change was driven mostly by Republicans. Fifty percent of GOP supporters now say the deficit should be reduced only with spending cuts, up from 28 percent in November. Democratic support also increased, but only to 13 percent from 6 percent.

At 40 percent, a plurality of Americans say the sequester will harm the economy, compared with 18 percent who say it will help. But 27 percent say they expect it to have no impact. Added together, 45 percent of the public believe the mandatory spending cuts will either help or have no impact on the economy, suggesting that much of America has not embraced President Barack Obama's warnings.

A 44 percent plurality of Americans also see the sequester as a bad idea, but 23 percent say it's a good idea and 29 percent have no opinion.

The All-America Economic Survey found that 31 percent of the public agree with Obama's stance on the sequester, while 25 percent back congressional Republicans. However, 28 percent backed neither side.

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