Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the state of the nation’s economy, with 83 percent responding that the situation is “poor or not so good,” with blame being divided on partisan lines, according to a new Wall Street Journal-NORC poll (pdf) released on June 6.
The poll was released as the country is facing the worse inflation rate in 40 years, with consumer goods prices skyrocketing by 8.3 percent from 2021.
About 35 percent of those polled said they were “not satisfied at all” with their current finances, which is the highest level of dissatisfaction recorded since the WSJ started to ask the question starting in 1972.
Only 14 percent of respondents said they were “pretty well satisfied” with their personal financial situation, while 51 percent said they were “more or less satisfied.”
Of those surveyed reporting their financial situation getting worse over the last few years, 38 percent said yes, while 24 percent indicated their financial situation had gotten better and 39 percent said their situation stayed the same.
This was the only time other than in the aftermath of the 2007–09 recession that more than 30 percent of those polled said that they were worse off, according to data going back about 50 years.
Regarding the state of the American economy, 1 percent of respondents in the poll described it as “excellent,” while 27 percent described it as “poor,” and 55 percent “as not so good.”
“Yes US inflation is high and growth concerns are increasing … yet this deterioration in sentiment exceeds what would be warranted by the outlook for the economy. This matters as a continued worsening in sentiment can itself undermine the outlook,” Mohamed El-Erian, a Financial Times columnist and President of Queens’ College at Cambridge University, posted on Twitter.
The WSJ said that the “pessimism extended beyond the current economy to include doubts about the nation’s political system, its role as a global leader and its ability to help most people achieve the American dream.”
Inflation rates and gas prices are becoming a top concern for voters in recent months, as the Democrats in Congress seem poised to lose hard in the midterms as their ratings tumble in the polls, a big concern for the struggling Biden administration.
Americans are starting to go their savings in order to pay their bills, according to a recent Commerce Department report.
Biden announced earlier that he has made fighting inflation his top economic priority, after his administration previously downplayed rising prices as “transient” and “temporary.”
He is reportedly planning a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia in July, in order to urge the Saudis to increase global oil supply and alleviate domestic gas prices before the November midterms, after two years of increasing tensions and criticism of the Persian Gulf ally.
Sixty-three percent surveyed said they were “extremely or very concerned” about the impact of higher gas prices, with 54 percent indicating the same for grocery prices.
On the morning of June 6, the national average for a gallon of gas rose to $4.865, the highest ever recorded, according to AAA.
The Federal Reserve meanwhile has been raising the interest rate benchmarks to slow inflation, but it is raising concern that its actions may trigger a recession.
The WSJ survey shows a widening partisan gap throughout the United States over cultural issues and an underlying sense of pessimism regarding shared economic and social attitudes.
Eighty-six percent said that Americans are greatly divided when it comes to the most important values, with 55 percent responding that they expect those divisions to be worse five years from now, up by about a third from last year.
The poll showed that 33 percent of respondents remained optimistic that people of different races or religions could come together as a unifying force in the country, while 13 percent responded positively regarding Americans holding different political views.
A small number said that they were “extremely or very concerned” about the impact of price increases in remaining polled categories, such as prescription drugs and housing, with at least a third of respondents responding that they were at least “very concerned” for all categories except child care.
Approximately 65 percent said that it would be “somewhat easy” to find a new job with approximately the same income and benefits, the highest number polled since the question was first asked in 1977.
Added to the economy in May were 390,000 jobs and the American unemployment rate held steady at 3.6 percent, after months of high job growth as the economy recovered from the pandemic, according to a June 3 report from the Labor Department.
Job openings remained positive at the end of April, decreasing only slightly to 11.4 million, according to a June 1 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Wall Street Journal-NORC poll was conducted online and by phone with 1,071 adult respondents, from May 9 through May 17 with a margin of error of 4 percentage points.