Is The Economy Really Getting Better?

June 06, 2013, 1:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 6/1/2013) Last week, for the first time during the Obama Administration, more Americans said the economy was getting better than said it was getting worse. Though the gap was narrow, this was a major change from the first years of this Presidency. In this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll, there continues to be slightly more optimism about the future economy as there is pessimism. Optimism on measures like this is party-related. Those who support the party in power say they are more hopeful about the economy than those who do not. 47% of Democrats think the economy is getting better, while 45% of Republicans say it is getting worse. About four in ten in each party think things are basically staying the same. The young, college graduates, and those whose family incomes exceed $100,000 a year are also more optimistic.

Republicans and Democrats agree that home prices in their area have increased in the next year – though Democrats are more positive than Republicans. 35% of Democrats and 22% of Republicans have seen housing prices rise (and only 7% overall think prices have dropped). Again, the young, the better educated and the best-off financially feel best. More than half of those living in the West, which suffered huge drops in property values in the “Great Recession”, now say home prices have increased in the last year.

But economic success for this President, as for previous presidents, will come when the public sees improvement in the number of jobs available. And here relatively few Americans expect job growth by the end of 2013. Only 19% think there will be more jobs six months from now; one in four think there will be fewer. Nearly half see no change in job availability. But this is still an improvement from recent years.

The President’s approval rating on handling the economy is slowly improving. This week, 41% approve. Although half disapprove today, one year ago disapprovers outnumbered approvers by 13 points. Only in the first year of his first term was the President’s economic approval rating clearly better than it is today.

Overall though, the President gets little help from the slowly improving economy. Only 46% approve of the way he is handling his job overall. 49% disapprove.