Poll: Majority Thinks Country is Still in a Recession

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Earlier this year Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan pronounced the recession over, but today almost two-thirds of the public say it feels like the country's economy is still in a recession.

The latest FOX News national poll, conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corporation, finds that 65 percent of Americans say, from their family's perspective, it feels like the country is in an economic recession, up from 51 percent who felt this way in late April.

Similarly, only 10 percent now say the recession is over, down from 20 percent eight months ago.  The number saying the country never really was in a recession also dropped from 23 percent in late April to 16 percent today.

While there are clear differences between the political parties, majorities of both parties think the country is still in a recession.  Seventy-seven percent of Democrats and 54 percent of Republicans say the country hasn't recovered (as well as 66 percent of independents).

"Growing public concern about the economy is clearly something that the president and Congress are going to have to react to in the New Year," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman.  "While the Democrats were unable to capitalize on this concern in the last election, if the concern continues to grow for another year, Republican prospects in 2004 will begin to dim."

Other results from the survey also show concern for the condition of the nation's economy.  Just over half of Americans (51 percent) say they are optimistic about the economy right now (20 percent say "strongly optimistic"), dropping 15 points from earlier this year and dropping 20 points from one year ago when 71 percent said they were optimistic (33 percent "strongly optimistic").

Overall, Republicans are much more optimistic about the economy than Democrats (66 percent to 37 percent), and almost four times as likely say they are strongly optimistic (32 percent compared to 9 percent).  A gender gap also appears in the optimism, with 59 percent of men compared to 44 percent of women saying they are optimistic.

Today, expectations for the economy are closer to what they were in July 2001, prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks, when 55 percent said they were optimistic (22 percent "strongly optimistic").

More Americans are concerned about the nation's economy than about terrorist attacks.  Fully 86 percent say they are concerned (50 percent "very concerned") about the economy, compared to 80 percent who say they are concerned about terrorist attacks (40 percent "very concerned").  When asked which of these two issues should be the top priority for the government to work on right now, opinion divides about equally between the economy and terrorism, but half are unable to put one higher than the other (51 percent volunteer the response "both").

Four in 10 say they usually need to spend all of their monthly income to pay for essentials, while just over half (53 percent) say they are able to put some money into savings every month.

Polling was conducted by telephone December 3-4, 2002 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. Results are of registered voters, unless otherwise noted. LV = likely voters

1. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?

2. Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Bush is doing handling terrorism?

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Bush is doing managing the economy?

4. In your everyday conversations with friends and neighbors, what topic would you say comes up most often these days? (OPEN ENDED)

5. Would you say you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the U.S. economy right now? (If optimistic/pessimistic) Is that strongly or only somewhat?

6. Would you say you usually spend all of your money each month to pay for essentials, like food, rent/mortgage, and clothing, or are you usually able to put some money aside in savings each month?

7. Which do you think is more important for the government to work on right now -- (helping the economy recover) or (protecting the country from terrorism)? (ROTATE CHOICES)

8. Some experts say the country's economic recession is over, while others say the country never really was in a recession. How did it feel to you and your family -- the recession happened and is over, there wasn't a recession at all, or do you feel like we're still in a recession?

How concerned are you about each of the following?
SCALE: 1. Very concerned 2. Somewhat concerned 3. Not very concerned 4. Not at all concerned 5. (Not sure)

9. Terrorist attacks

10. Smallpox attacks by terrorists

11. The nation's economy

12. The stock market