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Portfolio > Economy & Markets > Fixed Income

Americans’ Economic Optimism Tapers Off

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With less than one year to go before the next presidential and congressional elections, Americans are somewhat more concerned about how the U.S. economy will fare in 2016 than they were at the beginning of 2015, Pew Research reported Tuesday.

Forty-five percent of 1,500 adults surveyed in mid-December rated economic conditions as only fair, 27% saw them as good or excellent and 28% said they were poor.

Slightly more that half of respondents expected economic conditions a year from now to be about the same as they are today, 22% expected the economy to worsen and 20% for it to improve.

This compares with a year ago, when economic optimism was on the upswing. Thirty-one percent expected the economy to get better over the coming year, compared with 17% who expected it to get worse; half expected little change.

Not unexpectedly, Democrats and Republicans differed on the current state of the economy.

Thirty-eight percent of Democrats said national economic conditions were excellent or good, compared with 22% of independents and 21% of Republicans who said this.

Opinions about the national economy have edged upward over the past seven years, Pew Research reported, and now are about the same as they were in January 2008 on the eve of that year’s financial crisis, with 26% expressing positive views of the economy.

Optimism about the state of the economy among survey respondents varied with family income: 35% of those with $30,000 or less said economic conditions were poor versus 19% of those with incomes of $100,000 or more.

But economic expectations for the coming year varied only slightly by education and income on the positive or negative side. While 66% of those with family incomes of $100,000 or more expected their finances to improve, so too did 58% with incomes below $30,000.

Forty-three percent of respondents characterized their financial situation as excellent or good, 39% said it is only fair, and 17% rated their finances as poor. A majority of adults expected their financial situation to improve at least some over the next year.

The survey found educational levels were a key factor here. Seventy-two percent of those with postgraduate degrees said either that their incomes were keeping pace with the cost of living or were rising faster than living costs. Those with less education were less positive about staying even or getting ahead financially.

Nearly two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds said their family’s income was staying even with or rising faster than the cost of living, while slightly more than one-third said it was falling behind financially.

Sixty percent of respondents older than 50 said their family’s income was falling behind.

About four in 10 respondents told pollsters that plenty of jobs were available in their communities, the most positive evaluations of local job conditions in eight years, Pew said.

The recent drive to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour found broad support in the survey, with 73% of respondents generally favoring an increase and 24% opposing one.

Supporters of a higher minimum wage gave varied responses to a question about the level of increase:

  • 20%: less than $10 an hour
  • 26%: $10 and $11 an hour
  • 14%: between $11 and $14 an hour
  • 11%: $15 an hour or a higher amount.

— Check out U.S. Workers May Finally Catch a Break as Wages Look Set to Rise on ThinkAdvisor.


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