Americans Growing More Pessimistic About Economy: CNBC Survey


The American dream appears increasingly elusive to the average citizen, with the CNBC All-America Economic Surveyfinding continued high levels of pessimism in the nation’s outlook for incomes, home values and the future of the economy.

After trillions of dollars were put to work for monetary and fiscal stimulus, just 8 percent of the nation views the economy as excellent or good and 92 percent see it as fair or poor, little changed from a year ago.

But just 37 percent of the public believes the economy will improve in the next year, down five points from a year ago. Taken together, the combined percentage of Americans who are pessimistic about the economy now and for the next year is at the second highest for the three-year life of the CNBC survey.

One doesn’t have to look far for the reasons for the prevailing pessimism. Just one in four Americans believe their wages will increase in the next year. Even fewer, one in five, believe their home price will rise.

Both figures are record lows for the survey. In March 2007, about half the public expected gains for both their home values and their wages.

The politics of pessimism weigh heavily on President Obama and the Democrats. The president’s approval rating on the economy remains stuck at 45 percent, with those who are pessimistic on the economy giving the president approval ratings in the low double digits.

Congressional Democrats can boast of approval from only 35 percent of the public, just a bit than higher than congressional Republicans, with a 31 percent rating.

But responses to a separate series of questions about who is to blame for the nation’s economic problems finds Congressional republicans low on the list, a good sign pollsters say for the GOP in the upcoming election.

Former President Bush is faulted by the 31 percent of the public for the current recession, far ahead of President Obama at 13 percent. Congressional Republicans are blamed by just 7 percent of the public for the recession.

The two presidents are closer on other issues. For example, 22 percent of the public blames Bush for the current level of unemployment, compared with 20 percent for President Obama.

While 39 percnt blame Bush and congressional Republicans for the deficit, 40 percent blame Obama and the congressional Democrats.

One of the most dramatic findings in the survey is a sharp turn in views on business regulation, an issue that finds President Obama at odds with a majority of the public. Nearly half of Americans now say that business is overregulated—up from 28 percent in other surveys conducted in 2009, and even higher than surveys that asked the question in the mid-1980s.

On many other economic issues, the CNBC survey finds Americans are deeply divided, with a slight edge that would appear to favor the GOP.

Just under half of the public wants to continue the tax cutsfor the wealthy. 46 percent of the public says they should be ended.

Among the leading reasons to maintain the tax cuts, the survey finds the public is concerned about raising taxes in the current economic environment and the effects on small business.

Among those would want the tax cuts to end, the leading reason, cited by 26 percent, is that the money could be used for such programs as social security and education.

In second place, with 17 percent, is the response that “the wealthy do not pay their fair share in taxes.”

The Tea Party also sharply divides the public, but into three distinct camps: 31 percent say they agree with the party’s economic positions and 28 percent say they disagree.

Emotions are charged on both sides, with equal percentages saying they strongly agree and strongly disagree. But there’s a larger, third group: 41 percent of the public say they don’t have an opinion on the Tea Party or they are just not sure.

Finally, a majority of Americans do not believe this is a good time to invest in the stock market, about the same percentage as during the height of the financial crisis in 2008. Just 37 percent of the public say it’s a good time to invest.

The survey questioned 801 people and was conducted October 10-13. Completeresults here.