American Public Sends Mixed Economic Signals Before Election

November 01, 2012, 12:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 10/26/2012) In the lead-up to the Presidential election, Americans are growing more optimistic about the state of the nation’s economy as well as their own finances. On the whole, however, they continue to evince attitudes about the current economic situation that are more negative than positive.

Results from the latest Economist/YouGov Poll show that a growing percentage of Americans believe the U.S. economy is getting better. As the chart below shows, the percentage who feel this way has risen substantially since the late summer. At 31% this week, it has now reached its highest point of the past 22 months. But at the same time, the percentage of Americans who say the economy is getting worse has not fallen at all since the beginning of the year, and at 38% it continues to be quite a bit higher than the percentage who believe the economy is improving.

Results also show a small and gradual increase since the middle of 2011 in the percentage of Americans who believe they are financially better off than they were one year ago. This week’s percentage for that statistic – 14% – is actually slightly lower than for recent Economist/YouGov Polls (it reached 21% in mid-September). On the other hand, the percentage of Americans who say they are worse off declined substantially in the early part of the year, but has since remained stable. At 35%, it continues to be much higher than the percentage of Americans who believe their finances have gotten better.

Americans are more fickle about their predictions for the stock market than they are about the former two metrics. A decline in stock market optimism in mid-2011 was
followed by an uptick in the early part of 2012 and a gradual decline in the middle part of this year. Over the past few months, however, stock market optimism has increased once again.