Economic optimism grows

December 29, 2014, 10:37 AM UTC

For the first time since at least June, more Americans are optimistic than pessimistic about the economy

The rising economy has been slow to register with most Americans.  For the last year, the public has been more likely to believe the number of jobs would decrease in the near future than to say the number would rise, even as the number of jobs increased month by month, and the unemployment rate dropped.  But in this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll, for the first time all year, more people say they expect there to be more jobs in six months than think that there will be fewer.

Only one in five think the number of jobs will drop, the lowest percentage registered in Economist/YouGov Polls all year.

This expanding economic optimism – even if only a reflection of the spirit of the season – is also on display when it comes to assessing where the overall economy is headed.  Nearly a third say the economy is getting better – the highest percentage since a brief upwards rise in the summer of 2013.  And the percentage this week saying the economy is getting better is greater – even if only by a point -- than the percentage thinking it is getting worse, something not seen in Economist/YouGov Polls since last June.

This week, 31% say the economy is getting better, 30% say it is getting worse, and 31% see no change either way.

Of course, perceptions of the economy often have a great deal to do with one’s political beliefs.  Democrats see improvements, Republicans do not.  But fewer than half of Republicans this week say the economy is getting worse, and only a third say jobs will decline in the next six months.  Three years ago, in August 2011, more than three in four Republicans thought the economy was getting worse. 

But the President gets little or credit for the changing state of the economy.  In a question asking how your own situation has changed since Barack Obama took office in 2009, Americans are more negative than they are positive.  And the responses seem based more on politics than on their personal economy.   Those who are already better-off, with family incomes of $100,000 a year or more, are more likely to say they are better off than those with lower incomes.  But at least one in five of those in lower income brackets say they are better off today.  The group that is most likely to say they are worse off today isn’t an economic group at all, and may not be giving an economic answer.  69% of Republicans describe themselves as worse off today than they were in January 2009.  Only 4% of Republicans are better off.

So the President’s approval rating for handling the economy – still the public’s most important issue – remains negative.  This week, 40% approve of his handling of the economy, and 52% disapprove.  His overall approval rating remains in the low forties (42% this week), with 54% disapproving.

See the full poll results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.