December 22nd, 2009
12:19 PM ET
8 months ago

CNN Poll: Weak economic numbers dovetail with public perception

Washington (CNN) – Eight in ten Americans say that the economy is in poor shape, but that's an improvement from a year ago, according to a new national poll.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey's Tuesday release comes as the government reports that economic growth in the third quarter was much weaker than previously estimated.

According to the poll, 80 percent of Americans say economic conditions are poor. As bad as that sounds, it's a 13 point decline from last December. Twenty percent of the people questioned in the survey say economic conditions are good, up 12 points from a year ago.
"The good news is that Americans remain optimistic, with 58 percent forecasting that the economy will be in good shape a year from now," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Optimism is highest in big cities and lowest in rural areas."

With the nation's unemployment level at 10 percent, jobs are obviously a concern across the board, but the poll indicates a racial divide on the issue, with black Americans feeling they face a tougher job situation than whites. Fifty-four percent of blacks questioned in the survey say that African-Americans don't have the same chance as whites to get jobs that they are qualified for. Less than 1 in 4 white respondents agreed.

"Although 54 percent blacks today don't think that they have the same employment opportunities as whites, that's actually down significantly from past polls," Holland says. "In the 1990s, two-thirds of blacks felt that way, and in the 1960s, three-quarters shared that view."

The Obama administration will face several major policy questions in 2010, with the deficit, unemployment, and new regulation of financial institutions chief among them. Worries about the deficit are growing, but a majority of Americans still say that economic recovery should be a higher priority than reducing the deficit.

"And when the deficit is pitted against unemployment, that number grows higher. Fifty-seven percent say that economic recovery should be a higher priority for the Obama administration than deficit reduction; three-quarters say that reducing unemployment should take precedence over the deficit," adds Holland.

As for new financial regulations, 45 percent say there is too little government regulation of the stock market and other financial institutions. Six in ten say that those financial institutions have too much influence over the Obama administration.

According to the government's final reading released Tuesday, the gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic activity, grew at an annual rate of only 2.2 percent in the three months ending in September. A month ago the estimate was growth of 2.8 percent, and the initial reading in October was more robust growth of 3.5 percent.

The latest report showed that consumer spending, which accounts for more than two thirds of the nation's economic activity, was much weaker than previously thought. Businesses also didn't do as much to build up inventories of goods as in the previous reading.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted December 16-20, with 1,160 adult Americans, including 259 African-Americans and 786 whites, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points

Full results (pdf)

– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

Follow Paul Steinuaser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn


Filed under: Economy
soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. The Lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    Yup, we bailouted the rich and they are doing just fine now, just look at those bonus checks going out. The cost of the bailouts was a 13 Trillion dollar debt, and the loss of the middle class of this nation. Seems the cure was worse than the disease.

    December 22, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  2. GI Joe

    If the GOP ever quits playing their little boy stalling game, we can ALL move forward. VOTE THE OBSTRUCTIONISTS OUT.

    December 22, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  3. Jonathan

    If this is so, than why has everyone been insisting that retail is rocking this Christmas season, including and especially the retailers themselves?
    Are they all lying perhaps?

    December 22, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  4. Slider

    The only poll that is going to count will be both the 2010 elections, where this country will begin to move in the correct direction, and 21012, when this country sends the Jive Turkey in Chief back to the Illinois sewers where he, and his constituents belong.

    December 22, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  5. Jazzy

    Give President Obama and his team TIME to get us out of this MESS. Geezzz! I wonder why the expectations are ridiculously unrealistic for him? Its barely been a year! Where was all of this urgency when Bush and gang was destroying EVERYTHING we hold dear in this nation???

    December 22, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  6. GOP Red Curtain victim

    It's all a bunch of hype. Fear-mongers delight. It is just an excuse for companies to dump payroll and get rid of deadbeats. Meanwhile Wall Street had an instant comeback with skyrocketing profits. 30% year to date returns for my 401K.

    December 22, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  7. michael armstrong sr. TX.

    The polls need to be evaluated after New Years to see how much capital gain from retail turns to capital loss from consumer cash refunds .

    December 22, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  8. Andros Amphibian

    just legalize marajuana..its so ridiculious, do you know how much crime would falter and how many jobs would be created, and how much internal revenue we could make...its mind blowing when you do the math...but apparently its "evil" or "immoral" yet..alcohol something much worse for your body and mind, is A-OK

    December 22, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  9. Ohio Man

    I just dont understand how most people think that everything was suppose to rubber band back to normal after 10 months or 11.. and then they act like Obama is the first and only Prez we ever had.. and this was all caused by him and no other person. as if every1 just woke up and now want to be so concerned about whats going on when they should have been concerned yrs ago... and the average person cant even pay off a 1,000 credit bill they have in a yr but they want Obama to fix a tri. + dollar broken economy in less that a year .. ..lol.. funny .. but i guess ..

    December 22, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  10. gt

    some have no idea how really bad it is out here in the heart land,,,, i dont see any light any where,,, at the end of the tunnel.... it is real bad,,,

    December 22, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  11. Joe Fattal

    I have been living in this country for over 40 years, and I haven't complain one day about the economy. Comparing this one to some other around the world, it is still the best one around. I just don't see the problem.

    December 22, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  12. Who said the Mayans were wrong?

    Looks like the Mayans might be right to me.Its all going down the tubes faster than ever,and all this love we have for each other is just astounding.

    December 22, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  13. Donkey Party

    CNN, you just keep leaning further right every day. In the history of our nation, please name one President that turned around a tortured economy in less than a year? Especially when the previous administration spent 8 years destroying it? Terrible journalism. Did Rupert Murdoch buy you guys out or what?

    December 22, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  14. michael armstrong sr. TX.

    Solving the job issue is only going to be solved by creating industry if you build it we will work.

    December 22, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  15. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    The economy is improving, and it is only going to get better as soon as these lenders get on board with the program. See, it is a new day. Gone are the days of unaccountability, loaning money out and never checking to see if and when it is coming back. Mind you most of the programs put in place to boost the economy have'nt taken full hold yet, but they will. Bank on it. I'm LOVING THE CHANGE. Stay focused, keep your eyes on the goal, excercise good individual judgment. WE'RE PULLING OURSELVES FURTHER AND FURTHER AWAY FROM THE PRECIPICE USA!!!

    December 22, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  16. southerncousin

    The natural course of these economic events is to get better, unfortunately this recovery has been stifled by the fear and uncertainty caused by Hussen and the glib libs who are intent on snuffing out the life of Americans who pay taxes so their dope smoking followers will continue to vote them in to office. Throw these lying thieving socialist, eurotrash out starting in 2010.

    December 22, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  17. katiec

    Of course the economy is still weak. You cannot resolve in a few months what took eight years to create. But the signs are there
    showing improvement.
    Intelligent Americans realize that our returning to the great nation we once were is going to take time.
    And, like many do not expect miracles. Am thankful we have a president that is sincere about us and our survival. Am not so
    thankful that we have a party that is out to destroy everything, regardless of the merits, benefits.

    December 22, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  18. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Cleaning up the Bush mess won't be done in a year.

    December 22, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  19. RichP the Pocono's

    Until 'distinguished' gentleman get their act together and get rid of the rather stupid laws they passed over the years, the ones that give companies good reason to move overseas, nothing will change. While every other government in the world is dropping corporate taxes we are the only ones RAISING them.

    December 22, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  20. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but...

    Ya know, other members of the vast socialist conspiracy told me not to say anything yet but, as y'all know, I'm a regular chatty Cathy. The government takeover of healthcare is just the start of our nefarious plan. Next we're going to take over the interstate highway system, your fire department, the national parks, your local DMV and post office. We're going to take over your grandbabies' schools and indoctrinate them into our crypto-trotskyite dogma. We've already taken over the border patrol, how do you think so many illegals "get past us?" Soon everyone will be wearing black berets with red stars on them and we'll start rounding up the "less than progressive" among us and herding them into the reeducation camps. Remember you heard it here first. Have a nice day!

    December 22, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  21. Hammerer

    Now the media is charged with the task of making the people of America the idea that the healthcare is the best thing since sliced bread. With the 24 hour propaganda machine in full gear the media will sell the idea using tested and proven tatics that can make a person believe anything that they want them to think.

    December 22, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  22. SocialismBad

    Blacks were 12.8% of the population in 2008 according to the Census Bureau. They comprise 22.3% of this poll. Given that almost all are Democrats and Obama supporters I question this poll. These poll takers need to pay more attention to demographics if they want meaningful results.

    December 22, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  23. Lynda/Minnesota

    Who needs a poll to tell me what I already know?

    Many of the strip malls near my home which had seen a 75% decline in active business for well over 3 years are now slowly beginning to include more and more new businesses.

    Hopefully, this trend continues in all of our cities...

    December 22, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  24. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but...

    "With the 24 hour propaganda machine in full gear the media will sell the idea using tested and proven tatics that can make a person believe anything that they want them to think."

    Hmmmm.... like death panels, socialism, tax hikes, death of the insurance industry, weapons of mass destruction? Yeah, propaganda is a robo-drag, isn't it? Have a nice day!

    December 22, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Randolph Carter – If you can't teach 'em right, teach 'em wrong. Love the sarcasm. Very effective.
    gt- it might be time to consider relocating.
    Joe Fattal – we've gotten a little soft after eight years of overeating, overspending,and overindulging. We're bucking and screaming at the discipline we're now forced to excercise for our OWN GOOD. And you're right this is THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD!

    December 22, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
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