U.S. economic confidence stable at low level; Gallup's Economic Confidence Index was -28 in latest week, essentially unchanged from previous week and within the same range as readings since June

Cindy Allen

Cindy Allen

Aug 21, 2012 – Gallup Inc.

PRINCETON, New Jersey , August 21, 2012 () – Americans continue to have both a negative view of current U.S. economic conditions and a bleak outlook for the U.S. economy's future, resulting in a Gallup Economic Confidence Index reading of -28 for the week of Aug. 13-19 -- basically unchanged from the previous week.

Americans' economic confidence has been low for most of the summer so far, with weekly averages between -23 and -29 since June 11. Prior to that, Americans had been somewhat more optimistic, and the weekly average of -16 in late May represented the highest confidence reading of the year. The -29 reached in January and again in late July represent the low points of the year so far. At the same time, Americans' confidence was significantly lower in the latter part of 2011 than it is now.

Last week, 13% of Americans rated the economy either excellent or good, while 43% rated it poor -- resulting in a current conditions rating of -30. Sixty percent of Americans said the U.S. economy is getting worse, compared with 35% who said it is getting better, yielding an economic outlook rating of -25.

Americans have been more likely to say the economy is getting worse than to say it is getting better in every weekly average since Gallup began tracking these measures in January 2008.

Bottom Line

With the first of the two back-to-back presidential nominating conventions about to begin next Monday, voters' views of the economy will take on increasing political importance. Republicans will contend that Barack Obama has failed to do enough to remedy the depressed economic conditions he inherited in January 2009, while Democrats will argue that Mitt Romney's election would make economic matters worse rather than better. All of these arguments will be playing to an audience of Americans who agree on one thing: current economic conditions are not good, and the economy's direction is down rather than up.

There are 2 ½ months left before the election on Nov. 6, and Americans' views of the economy can in theory still change during that time. Gas prices have been going up in recent weeks, and it is possible that this has negatively affected Americans' views of the economy. If prices go down again, as they usually do at the end of the summer, Americans could become more positive. On the other hand, the stock market has been generally moving up since June, yet that hasn't seemed to improve Americans' perceptions -- meaning other issues are influencing their views of the economy, including the jobs situation.

Gallup's mid-month assessment of the employment situation suggests it is unlikely that the government on Sept. 7 will report a significant decrease in unemployment for August. Whatever happens going forward, the continuing negative views of the economy Gallup has measured over this summer so far show no signs of any upward shift in Americans' economic optimism.

Gallup.com reports results from these indexes in daily, weekly, and monthly averages and in Gallup.com stories. Complete trend data are always available to view and export in the following charts:

Daily: Employment, Economic Confidence, Job Creation, Consumer Spending
Weekly: Employment, Economic Confidence, Job Creation, Consumer Spending

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking from Aug. 13-19, 2012, with a random sample of 3,389 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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