The state of the economy — especially the continued rate of high inflation — remains a major concern for many Americans. Recent polling by the Economist and YouGov shows that any change in the month since the last jobs reports has been only incremental — though some indicators have been positive. At the same time, many Americans still hear negative economic news: 53% say most economic news is negative, down from 57% a month ago.
Taking a step back, however, it becomes clear that the tone of economic news people say they consume is heavily dependent on who is currently in office. When Donald Trump was in office, Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to say they'd heard mostly negative news stories about the economy (particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic began). When Joe Biden became president in 2021, the share of Democrats who said they'd heard mostly bad news about the economy plummeted.
The share of Republicans who said they'd heard mostly negative stories began to increase following the November 2020 election, then fell and remained steady in the months following Biden's inauguration. About a year ago, in September of 2021, a growing share of Republicans began saying they'd heard mostly negative economic news; in the year since, at least half of Republicans have said they've heard mostly bad news at each point asked. The share of Republicans hearing mostly negative economic news peaked this July at 79% and has since fallen to 67% in our latest survey.
Inflation remains high and belief that the economy is getting worse remains a majority opinion. Most Americans (59%) say the country is currently in recession, an increase of 4 percentage points over the past week that is primarily driven by increases among Democrats and Independents. Nearly half of people who don't think we're in a recession believe we will be in one within the next 12 months.
Inflation appears to frame many Americans' views on the economy. More than nine in 10 Americans say it is important to them, and a majority believe inflation has personally impacted them in a large way. Among a list of other issues, inflation is most likely to be selected as the country’s most important issue. Many say that the price of goods and services is the best indicator of a recession: 45% say this compared to 20% who say the best indicator is economic growth and 11% who say it is unemployment.
Looking ahead, many expect inflation to persist: 42% anticipate the rate will be even higher six months from now and just 19% say it will be lower. While gasoline prices have dropped recently and brought down the overall inflation rate, 37% of Americans say they expect gas prices will be higher in six months. Only 26% say gas prices will be lower.
One month ago, after the last jobs report, 70% said the country was off on the wrong track. Now, 64% say that. One in four think the country is generally heading in the right direction, up five points since then. But the share of Americans who say the country is "off on the wrong track" is up 4 points since last week. This shift has been primarily among Independents, 73% of whom say we're on the wrong track, compared to 64% last week.
This poll was conducted on September 3 - 6, 2022 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll.
Image: Adobe Stock (Dmitry Nikolaev)