December 8th, 2009
12:38 PM ET
6 months ago

CNN Poll: Optimism on economy fading

Washington (CNN) - Two years into the current recession, Americans don't see economic conditions getting better any time soon, and the steady growth in optimism that previous polls measured throughout the year appears to have stalled, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday indicates that 34 percent of those questioned say that things are going well in the country today. That's 14 points higher than a year ago, but a dip of 3 points since November.

Full results (pdf)

"This the first time in Barack Obama's presidency that this number has gone down," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

According to the survey, 39 percent of the respondents say the country's still in a downturn, up 6 points from last month. Nearly half of those questioned say the economy has stabilized and a small minority, 15 percent, think the country is starting to recover.

"The recession has hit blue-collar families the hardest," Holland said. "More than half of whites who never attended college say economic conditions are still in a downturn. Most whites who attended college say things have stabilized or are starting to get better."

The poll's release comes hours before President Barack Obama delivers a major speech on the economy at the Brookings Institution, one of the oldest and most prestigious think-tanks in Washington.

It's clear why Obama is again addressing the economy: Although more U.S. troops are headed to Afghanistan and the Senate is debating health care, most Americans continue to say that the economy is the most important issue for them. Four in ten say the economy is their top concern; 17 percent cited health care and 16 percent say that Afghanistan and Iraq are the country's biggest problems.

According to the poll, 84 percent of those questioned say the economy is still in a recession, with 36 percent saying it's a serious one and another 35 percent calling it a moderate one.

What about the chances of the recession turning into another Great Depression?

"Forty-three percent say that might happen in the next 12 months, slightly higher than the number who worried about a Depression a year ago," added Holland.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted December 2-3, with 1,041 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percent for the overall sample.

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: CNN poll • Economy
soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. Sean

    Wow, not much optimism in this country. We've turned into a bunch of short-sighted naysayers I think. People were more optimistic about Bush's chances to win a land war in Asia! What happened?

    December 8, 2009 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  2. buckeye

    greetings from the Buckeye State, heartland of the Rust Belt now stretching from coast to coast. So why do we send hundreds of billions of dollars in economic/military aid thousands of miles from the USA? Seems like Santa Claus is broke.

    December 8, 2009 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  3. Rick from Murfreesboro, TN

    I am much more optimistic about the economy now than I ever was under the gross mismanagment and greed of George Bush and the Republicans.

    December 8, 2009 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  4. Ancient Texan

    The American voters, along with Conservative Politicians knew the Porkulas Project would produce the same results as FDR's New Deal, Nothing! But the Dems rammed it through, with little or no results. Business produces jobs, not government spending. And this Administration hates Business.

    December 8, 2009 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  5. yuri

    The pity is that nobody has a viable solution. Wingnutty windbags like Limbaugh, are acting like Damacles sword overhanging the policy makers, offering precious little in the form of advice, except spewing vitriol.

    December 8, 2009 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  6. Sgt. USMC

    We as Americans dug ourselves into a hole by making really bad investments and all we can do now is complain because we do not have the luxuries we are accustomed to. What a shame.

    December 8, 2009 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  7. independent Jim

    Hard to be optimistic when 10 percent are unemployed and 20 percent are underemployed with no end in sight

    December 8, 2009 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  8. TOTUS

    When Obama is going to Copenhagen to sell out the US and our economy again in a huge way, what else would you expect??

    December 8, 2009 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  9. disgusted independent

    It was a nice big party up until 2008, but after the party comes the hang over, the drink the morning after (i.e. the stimulus package) only slows the inevitable. But hey, lets borrow a few trillion more, that way we'll never have to sober up. I've never heard anyone who successfully drank themselves to sobriety. Good luck Obama, I hope you can turn this around.

    December 8, 2009 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  10. Frank

    The economy is never going to be fixed as long as we keep importing labor from India while shedding American jobs. My company has a mandate to only hire from Brazil until further notice. Outsourcing is what is killing this economy, not politics.

    Just greedy coroporations after 12% returns quarter after quarter.

    December 8, 2009 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  11. Not THAT Anonymous

    Hmmmmmm. And which party has controlled congress since 2006 and got the Executive Branch in 2008??? WOW!!! How can it be that their magic taxation wands didn't work???

    December 8, 2009 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  12. Linda

    Are those people who were polled the same people who did not see the "writing on the wall" at the beginning of the 21st century? It was so obvious that our economy was nothing more than a gamble and that there was little 'real' value behind the outrageous numbers of Wall St. and yet Americans believed all was fine. Just as most Americans were wrong in 2000 they will be wrong in 2010/2011 as things begin to turn around and this country recovers on a playing field that does not favor only the wealthy.

    December 8, 2009 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  13. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    When the jobs come around, that's when the President's approval rating will go back up. It may go up before then if a strong healthcare bill is passed.

    December 8, 2009 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  14. munchmom

    No one needs to tell me that there is less hope–I know there is!! I just spent 10 minutes negotiating with a credit card company on my monthly payment for December because I can't pay it and buy food or gas for my car. Pay for gas with a credit card I hope will go through and buy groceries on a credit card whose balance keeps getting higher because there is no cash to do any of it. What could be better??? Until the big wigs in DC get off their butts and realize the real people are hurting, this foolishness will continue.

    December 8, 2009 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  15. Sniffit

    You mean with the approach of the season when everyone wants to blow a huge chunk of their cash on useless junk in an irresponsibly frenzied consumeristic orgasm...and they're finding themselves without credit or as much spare cash as usual...they're feeling a little extra down about the economy? Who'd a thunk?

    December 8, 2009 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  16. Andi

    You know, with the daily onslaught of polls coming out from everywhere, I hope the pollsters have at least created some jobs. Sheesh......

    December 8, 2009 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  17. MR RIGHT

    Everyone is finally realizing you cannot spend yourself out of bankruptcy. The more we owe the less control of the future. Business's do not know how to plan when there is no fiscal responsibility in Government so they will not hire.
    If this Administration would quit or just postpone their social experimentation with the Health care ponzi scheme and cap-trade tax ripoff, and focus on stabilizing the private enterprize business through tax incentives, and small business loan guarrantees, we would see improvement in a year.
    At this rate it may never happen.

    December 8, 2009 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  18. Indy

    As this is a global economic problem I don't expect we can blame this on Obama. Europe, Canada and many other countries are having a huge economical challenge and it will take several more years to get things going and the direction will not be the same old same old. We all live in a global economy and must look for new direction to properly react to the situation. It will never go back to what it was, and can not look to old fashioned ways to jumpstart the economy.The best that we can do globally is find the right way to fight the new economy with new ideas and work together with other countries to make this happen. There is no sense in pretending that this can be fixed anytime soon and it will be a long term commitment with new ideas and directions.This will be one of the biggest fights of our lives and one that we can win if we work together towards a common goal.

    December 8, 2009 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  19. Sniffit

    "The poll's release comes hours before President Barack Obama delivers a major speech on the economy at the Brookings Institution, one of the oldest and most prestigious think-tanks in Washington."

    Timing is everything, eh "news" media?

    December 8, 2009 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  20. benvictor

    The rhetoric ad nauseum has overwhelmed America. Fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice, shame on you. The rhetoric is insulting without clear, concrete results of progress.

    December 8, 2009 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  21. ggb

    Let's look beyond our current poor economy to the democratic spending which is weakening our dollar. Once inflation hits, and it will within this presidency, everyone's purchasing power and nest eggs will diminish greatly. I worry about our present as well as the future. No one will be able to afford to live comfortably except those in government.

    December 8, 2009 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  22. NVa Native

    The republican's campaign of "failure at all costs" is working on their base, and bleeding into the rest of the population. If the US and our President fail the repubs believe they win. Simple is as simple does. With support from other fascists like Fox media and hate radio our society is in great danger.
    I challenge any of you who consider yourselves "conservative" to read the 14 Elements of Fascism.

    December 8, 2009 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  23. Gerald

    When it comes to money matters, Hope is not a plan. I would personally like to thank BHO and the democrat majority that is in its fourth year of controlling congress for this mess.

    December 8, 2009 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  24. Randy in Pa

    Unfortunately, we in the U.S. are an impatient people. We want everything now. Add to that, that nobody in government really knows what to do and you tend to get these poll results. It seems that we just have to try and fleeb our way out of this.

    Take the money we waste in the wars and we could start making some progress.

    December 8, 2009 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  25. a health economist

    "Two years into the current recession, Americans don't see economic conditions getting better any time soon..."

    Yah, well I don't see the general understanding of economics by the average American getting better any time soon. The vast majority of people cannot even define economics properly.

    December 8, 2009 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
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