At New Year, Americans Gloomy Over Economy

Financial Stress The New Year generally brings feelings of hope and renewal, but not when it comes to Americans' attitude toward the economy, according to a poll from Harris Interactive.

Although slightly more optimistic than a year ago, two in five surveyed say they feel less secure financially than a year ago and almost half say they expect the economy to stay the same in the coming year.

One-third (36%) feel just as secure, and one in five (19%) now feel more secure. While this reflects the end of a troubling financial year, it also shows an improvement from what people felt last year at this time. One year ago, over half of Americans (56%) said they felt less secure about their financial situation when compared to the previous year.

President Obama is also probably thinking ahead to the economic future and his handling of the economy. At the end of his second year in office, just 30% of Americans give him positive ratings on the job he is doing on the economy, while 70% give him negative ratings.

Looking ahead, 26% of Americans say they expect the economy to get worse in the coming year, while 29% expect it to get better and 45% say it will stay the same. Last month, 34% said they thought the economy would be getting better, 41% said it would stay the same and 25% believed it would get worse.

In looking at the job market, 13% rate the job market in their region of the country as good, while 63% rate it as bad and 24% say it is neither good or bad. Looking ahead, 25% of U.S. adults say they expect the job market to be better over the next six months, 22% say it will be worse and 54% believe it will remain the same.

Looking to what people may be doing with regard to their finances in the coming year, 49% of Americans say they will cut back on their household spending. Two in five say they will pay down their level of debt (41%) and save more in the year ahead (40%). One in five U.S. adults plans to get rid of one or more credit cards (22%) and save more for retirement (22%), while 13% say they will undertake home improvements that increase the value of their home.

Fewer than one in 10 plan to invest in less risky investments (8%), refinance a mortgage (6%) or take out a home equity line of credit (2%). And, one in five Americans (18%) does not expect to do anything differently financially in 2011.

At the beginning of the year everyone always has the best intentions, says Regina A. Corso, a senior vice president at Harris Interactive. Resolutions are made typically about health, diet and/or finances. But, as everyone knows, resolutions are also broken and if they last until the end of January, that's a great thing. As the year goes on, it will be interesting to see if people are saving more, paying down their debt or cutting back on household spending, she says.

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the U.S. between Dec. 6 to 13, among 2,331 adults (ages 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.

Tags: economy, research
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