NEW YORK – Americans see a nation nervous about the economy these days, and majorities not only rate economic conditions negatively but also say they think things are getting worse. At the same time, most people say they feel confident about their personal financial future and about keeping their jobs.
The national telephone poll was conducted for FOX News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from Oct. 9 to Oct. 10. The poll has a three-point error margin.
A 70 percent majority says they think most Americans are feeling nervous about the nation’s economy, while substantially fewer — 13 percent — think people are feeling confident.
Although Republicans are more than twice as likely to say there is a feeling of confidence, majorities of both Republicans (60 percent) and Democrats (80 percent) think Americans are feeling uneasy about the economy.
Some 32 percent of Americans rate the economy positively (excellent or good), down from 42 percent last year (October 2006). Two-thirds (66 percent) rate it negatively (only fair or poor), including 29 percent who rate it as poor. This is an increase from the 19 percent who said it was in poor condition a year ago.
When President Bush took office in January 2001, a 59 percent majority of Americans rated the economy as excellent or good and 39 percent said it was in only fair or poor shape.
Partisanship plays a significant role in the ratings; for example, 48 percent of Republicans rate the economy positively compared to 19 percent of Democrats.
Over half of Americans (53 percent) say it feels like the economy is getting worse — more than twice as many as say it is getting better (22 percent). The main reasons people say it feels like the economy is getting worse include the rising cost of living, the lack of jobs and high gas prices.
Even though high- and lower-income households are about equally likely to rate the economy negatively, those living in households with a family income of less than $50,000 per year are 20 percentage points more likely than those living in higher-income households to say it feels like the economy is getting worse.
"Clearly, stories about the mortgage foreclosures, falling housing prices and unaffordable medical care are getting mixed in with more traditional economic stories — inflation and unemployment — in the minds of the public," Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman said.
"We’ve known for a long time that prices of frequently purchased items like food and gasoline influence consumers’ estimates of inflation more than government consumer price index. Now ‘for sale’ signs are moving into that role with the economy."
Despite these widespread dark views on the economy overall, large majorities of Americans say they feel very or somewhat confident about the security of their jobs (82 percent) and about their personal financial future (80 percent). Further, a 62 percent majority says they are confident they are saving enough money for retirement.
The poll finds that by a slim 5 percentage point margin, people think the Democratic Party (41 percent) would do more to help their finances than the Republican Party would (36 percent).
Similarly, by a 45 percent to 40 percent margin, Americans say they would feel more comfortable with Hillary Clinton as president if the country were to go into a recession than they would with Rudy Giuliani in charge.
The Stock Market
About two-thirds of Americans say they are confident in the U.S. stock market today (65 percent), and 80 percent are confident about making decisions about their personal financial investments. Four of 10 say they own individual stocks in the market (beyond their retirement accounts).
And the stock market is the place to go to make money, or at least better than lotto: By 68 percent to 14 percent, significantly more Americans think they have a better chance of making money buying stocks than buying lottery tickets.
That’s especially interesting given that more people think the stock market is rigged (30 percent) than think lotteries are (19 percent).
Overall, more than half (58 percent) think state lotteries are fair and honest, while nearly half (48 percent) say the same about the stock market.
It’s a Matter of Trust
When comes to choosing between investors and lawmakers, slightly more Americans say they trust Wall Street than they do Congress (33 percent and 29 percent, respectively). About one of four Americans says they don’t trust either institution (24 percent).
A few years back, the results were much more in favor of Washington, as 42 percent said they trusted Congress more and a small 15 percent minority said they trusted Wall Street (June 2002).
Finally, while Democrats trust Congress more (37 percent to 25 percent), Republicans are more likely to say they trust Wall Street (47 percent to 20 percent).