Thirty-six percent of Americans say they expect the economy to improve in the coming year, up from 23% in December; 59% rate the current job market in their area as bad, down from 65% in January: Harris Interactive

NEW YORK , February 21, 2012 () – The economy and jobs continue to be two of the more important issues driving the national political debate. But the general feeling about how things are going seems to be getting better according to a number of different indicators. First, looking at President Obama's handling of the economy, one-third of Americans (32%) give the President positive ratings while 68% give him negative ratings. This is up from just one-quarter of U.S. adults (25%) who gave him positive ratings in January and is the first time President Obama has had positive marks in the thirties since May of 2011.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,056 adults surveyed online between February 6 and 13, 2012 by Harris Interactive.

The second positive indicator on the economy is on expectations. Over one-third of Americans (36%) say they expect the economy to improve in the coming year while two in five (40%) say it will remain the same and one-quarter believe it will get worse (24%). Again, this is up from December when one-quarter of U.S. adults (23%) believed the economy would improve, almost half (47%) felt it would stay the same and three in ten (29%) thought it would get worse.

Perceptions of the job market are also improving, albeit a little more slowly. Three in five Americans (59%) rate the current job market of their region of the country as bad, 16% say it is good and one-quarter (25%) say it is neither good nor bad. In January, almost two-thirds of U.S. adults (65%) felt the job market in their region was bad and 14% felt it was good. This is the first time since July of 2008 that the percentage of those who think the job market in their region is bad is below 60%.

Looking ahead, there is also a sense of optimism on where the job market is heading. One-third of Americans (32%) believe the job market in their region of the nation will get better in the next six months, half (51%) say it will stay the same and 17% believe it will get worse. Last month, just one-quarter (27%) felt the job market would get better, over half (53%) felt it would remain the same and one in five (21%) felt it would get worse.

Finally, feelings about whether the country is still in a recession or not are also improving. In September, seven in ten Americans (69%) felt the country was still in a recession, while one in ten each felt that the U.S. came out of a recession but will now enter a new recession (11%) and the country has come out of the recession and the economy is growing (10%). A few months later and, while over half of Americans (56%) still think the country is in a recession, one-quarter (24%) believe the country has come out of the recession and the economy is growing and just 8% believe the U.S. has come out of a recession but will enter a new one.

So What?

People vote based on how things are for them economically, so if they do not have money or are struggling to keep their jobs, then it's probably time for a change in political leaders. But, if things are going well, people feel more secure in their jobs and have a little extra money to either save or spend, they are not as likely to want to make a change. If these positive feelings hold, that bodes well for President Obama.

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between February 6 and 13, 2012 among 2,056 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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