Rich Americans Most Upbeat They've Been in Year

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Wealthy Americans are the most upbeat they've been in a year, but many are still worried about unemployment.

Fifty percent are now optimistic about the economy, up 12 percent from the beginning of the year and the highest level in a year, according to a just-released survey.

At the same time, 33 percent believe the economy won’t fully bounce back until 2014 or later and another 14 percent of those surveyed say the recession won’t end at all.

The results come from the March 2012 Mendelsohn Affluent Barometer, revealed exclusively to CNBC. The Barometer studies the lifestyles, spending patterns and media habits of today’s affluent Americans.

Mendelsohn defines affluent adults as those who have household income of $100,000 or more.

The sluggish job market is still the biggest concern among affluents. Two-thirds indicate a drop in unemployment rates would make them more optimistic about the economy.

Forty-eight percent would like to see more stability in the housing market and 46 percent indicate a change in the White House would make them more optimistic. (Eighty percent are extremely or very concerned about federal government spending—which has remained at this high level for a while.)

Other indicators show a mixed bag.

Fifty-three percent of total respondents think they personally will be better off 12 months from now, down five percent from the last Mendelsohn Affluent Barometer. Households with incomes of $250,000 or more are more optimistic; 60 percent say they will be better off in a year.

Regarding work, 70 percent are now very or somewhat optimistic about their employer, up from 62 percent in February. But when it comes to corporate spending, 49 percent think their companies will spend the same amount compared to 12 months ago.

Americans in households with incomes of $100,000 or more still think gold is the best investment right now compared to real estate, stocks and bonds.

However, affluents are more bullish on stocks than they were in February. Forty percent now consider equities to be a good or excellent investment at this time—that’s up 7 percent month-to-month.

Questions about the third generation Apple iPad were also included in the March 2012 Mendelsohn Affluent Barometer. Five percent report purchasing a new iPad within two weeks of its launch on March 16. But 73 percent say they do not plan to purchase the new iPad.

And for those who bought, nearly sixty percent plan to use it primarily for downloading, streaming or purchasing video. Only 29% plan on using their iPad for business purposes; 26% will upload content to cloud-based storage.

Top Uses of the New iPad

Download/stream/purchase video 59%
Read books/magazines/newspapers 56%
Access the Internet via 4G/WiFi 55%
Download/stream/purchase movies 55%
Make purchases online 52%
Take photos 52%
(Methodology: 1, 000 respondents interviewed online. Conducted March 20-28, 2012. National sample of adults 18+ with HHI $100K+, weighted to reflect U.S. Census data)Source: Mendelsohn Affluent Barometer ÛÒ March 2012