Survey: Even Wealthy Feeling Economic Pinch

High gas prices and falling real estate values have Americans hurting, but the current economic downturn is also hitting the wealthy according to a new CNBC/ “Wealth in America” report.

Grove shopping center in Los Angeles
Grove shopping center in Los Angeles

Americans are driving less, entertaining less, vacationing less and spending less on groceries, according to the report conducted for CNBC and Portfolio magazine. The survey interviewed 801 adults between June 19-21, 2008. Watch CNBC for full coverage of the survey results all day Monday.

Of those questioned, an overwhelmingly 73 percent said they’re driving less to do errands and day-to-day activities, compared with 25 percent who said they aren’t altering their driving habits; 68 percent said they were spending less on out-of-home entertainment, including dining out, going to movies or concerts. Thirty-one percent said they are continuing such entertainment spending as before the downturn in the economy.

Vacations are taking a hit because of the economy; 68 percent said they’re traveling or planning to travel less and 31 percent said they’re continuing to travel as before.

Further, a majority don’t believe the economy will get better soon; 63 percent rate the economy as “poor” and 43 percent said they believe that the economy will get worse over the next year. Only 27 percent said the economy will remain about the same and 21 percent believe it will actually improve. (See the accompanying video for more on the survey.)

With a barrel of oil hitting a record $142 last week, solutions to the energy crisis are sparking debates, such as should the United States drill offshore. The survey said an overwhelming 67 percent strongly favor or somewhat favor an oil refinery being built within 10 to 15 miles of their community (33 percent strongly favor and 24 percent somewhat favor). In contrast, 33 percent strongly oppose or somewhat oppose such construction (21 percent strongly oppose and 12 percent somewhat oppose).

Respondents split on whether they would want a nuclear power plant built within 10 to 15 miles of their community: 45 percent strongly or somewhat favor the idea and 46 percent strongly or somewhat oppose any such plan.

Who is to blame for the current high price of gasoline? Oil companies and President Bush share the blame with 28 percent and 25 percent respectively, Twenty-three percent blamed investors and speculators and 17 percent blamed high consumer demand in countries such as China and India.

Over the next year, only 11 percent of those surveyed believe their salary will increase a mere 1 percent to 3 percent, with 56 percent saying their salary will remain the same. Incredibly, 6 percent said their wages will actually go down. (Among those considered wealthy, 11 percent think their salaries will decrease.)

And what about the one-time economic stimulus rebate checks amounting to $1,200 per taxpayer? Almost half — 49 percent — said they didn’t receive one. Of those who did, 23 percent said they paid bills, 10 percent said they saved it and 9 percent said they spent it.