WASHINGTON – Public jitters about the economy persist despite recent signs of growth — with unease fueled by everything from high gasoline prices to uncertain housing costs to the growing budget deficit, according to a poll released Wednesday.
Only about one in three Americans think the national economy is in good shape, according to the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Pessimism about future has grown over the last year.
"The public doesn't have one economic worry," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "It has a variety of economic concerns from gasoline prices, to increasing worries about the affordability of housing to a stock market that no longer seems as buoyant as it once did."
In addition, Kohut said, "The budget deficit (search) looms as a big issue."
The percentage of people rating their own personal finances positively has declined since the beginning of the year — from 51 percent to 44 percent.
One in four, including many in the middle income levels, say they owe more in personal debt than they can afford.
Pessimism about the future has risen sharply during the last year. Last August, 9 percent predicted the economy would get worse, while 18 percent said that in January and 24 percent now say so.
Gasoline prices topped the list of economic worries, with 85 percent saying high gas prices are a big problem, including 44 percent of those polled who said gas prices are a "very big" problem. Worries about the growing budget deficit, the job situation and the trade deficit were also frequently mentioned.
Six in 10 said jobs are difficult to find in their communities, with the concerns highest among rural residents.
The nervousness comes at a time the economy is growing slightly faster than some had anticipated. The economy grew at a solid 3.5 percent pace in the first quarter of the year, aided by healthy spending on housing.
The Pew survey of 1,502 adults was taken May 11-15 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.