CNN Poll: Economic pessimism skyrockets
August 8th, 2011
11:57 AM ET
11 years ago

CNN Poll: Economic pessimism skyrockets

Washington (CNN) - Americans have a bad case of the economic jitters, as recent drops in the stock market have been accompanied by a sharp rise in the public's economic pessimism, according to a new national poll.

And a CNN/ORC International survey released Monday also indicates that the public is split on last week's agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling, with more than six in ten saying the deal benefits the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class.

According to the poll, 60 percent now say that the economy is still in a downturn and getting worse. That's up 24 points from April, when a plurality believed that things had stabilized.

"Since the question was first asked in the spring of 2009, the number of Americans who said the economy was in a downturn had never been higher than 40 percent," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "The jump in economic pessimism is across the board - a majority of every major demographic and political subgroup thinks the economy is in a downturn and getting worse."

Three-quarters of people questioned now say that things are going badly in the country today, a 15-point increase since May. Just 24 percent say things are going well, the lowest figure since April of 2009.

There are many reasons for the steep increase in economic pessimism, but the stock market is clearly weighing on the minds of many Americans. More than half of people questioned say they have money invested in stocks, either directly or through 401k plans, IRAs and the like. And most say that the recent fall of the stock market affected their family's financial position, 16 percent in a major way and another 39 percent in a minor way.

"To put those numbers in perspective, in October of 1987, when the stock market had its biggest one-day loss in history as measured by percent decline, only 4 percent said they were affected in a major way and only 23 percent were affected in a minor way," adds Holland.

But it's more than Wall Street - six in ten say their confidence in the American economy was unaffected by the recent drop in the stock market, indicating that the public had already begun to lose confidence before the markets tanked.

Another likely concern is last week's debt ceiling agreement. The public is divided on that agreement - 48 percent approve and 50 percent disapprove - which may represent a slight increase in support compared to last week, but is far from a ringing endorsement. Roughly half say the government spending cuts in that bill did not go far enough, and six in ten say the bill benefits the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. That's a further indication that there were no winners in last weeks' debt ceiling agreement, including the U.S. economy.

"Democrats dislike the agreement because they think it benefits the rich. Republicans dislike the agreement because they think the spending cuts don't go far enough. Independents dislike the bill for both reasons - a majority of them see it as unbalanced, and also believe that the spending cuts should have gone further," Holland said.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International on August 5-7, with 1,008 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey was conducted both before and after Friday night's downgrading of the country's credit rating by Standard and Poors. The poll's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

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

Filed under: Debt • Deficit • Economy
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. New Age Independant

    Get ready for more blame and deflection from Democrats. That will be their strategy from here on out.

    August 8, 2011 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  2. Frank - Ohio

    Here is the President? Why isn't he out front leading this country? He seems very consumed by his fund raising efforts and not this country's economy!!!! Things are bad and getting worse ... he is nowhere in sight. No plans. No ideas. No leadership. (Heck ... the Tea Party has more leadership, plans and ideas than he does!) If he no longer wants this job, let's just replace him NOW.

    August 8, 2011 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  3. The Day of Financial Reckoning is HERE - The Great Democrat Welfare Society Ends

    The economic numbers do not lie. We're heading into the Obama double dip recession. Sky rocketing oil prices trigger it with absolute predictability. Our economy is based on cheap oil and when gas hits $4/gallon for any length of time, the economy tanks. The high cost of energy works its way through everything we buy causing price inflation. All of this sucks money from consumers who now have less to spend. When your economy is consumer based, you then slow down, aka a recession.

    And the Democrats spending us into bankruptcy at light speed only adds to the problem. How do you deal with a group of people that think they can spend and borrow the way to properity?? Totally clueless.

    August 8, 2011 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  4. SuperMarioBros

    The economy is screwed. Good job to the rich bastards for ruining this great economy by being uber greedy. Time for the real people of this nation to step up and take the reins, the middle class people.

    August 8, 2011 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  5. Debbie

    Economic policy of the last 10 years is catching up with us.

    August 8, 2011 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  6. Fair is Fair

    I'm shocked. SHOCKED, I tell you.

    August 8, 2011 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  7. Enough is Enough

    Socialist president=economic pessimism. If Obama resigned that should restore faith in our economy and result in an upgrade from S&P.

    August 8, 2011 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  8. Four and The Door

    Watch unemployment skyrocket too. Confidence is a big part of hiring decisions. Look for 14% by Thanksgiving. Not that I want to see that, but it is what it is. Until 2012.

    August 8, 2011 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  9. Roger

    What if the House had been under Democratic control during this crisis? Why do the Republicans continue the Bush tax cuts? The theory has been disproven. Trickle down economics were in reality Trickle on down to developing more foreign manufacturing and foreign markets. Do feel we are getting squeezed out of the equation. Proof is in the puddin!
    Dear George, Dear Dick. Enjoying your retirement? Just pay us back the money you drained from our treasury from your lied into war.

    August 8, 2011 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  10. Marie MD

    @the rethugs must be paying some fools who don't have sense enough to pull their heads out of their behinds!
    Let me explain it to you yet againthe teabaggers could have solved this problem eight months ago but when you don't care what happens to our country because you are only focused on making our President look bad and be a one time president then there's really not much that he or even a retghug with common sense can do.
    The loonies in congress are now running our country.i wonder how all the old fools who ran around the country wanting it back now feel about the teabaggers highjacking their savings. Go back to work? Good luck as the rethugs don't care about jobs either!

    August 8, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  11. No more Obama

    Until Obama changes his direction (or is voted out of office), this economy is in trouble.

    If you remember, economy experts in 2008 predicted that 'unless something is done, the recession will last until the summer of 2010. Unfortunately, the democrats had control of Congress and the White House... it now appears that the recession is back... and our credit rating has been dinged.

    August 8, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  12. Dale

    Where is the president on this, I'll tell you where the president is he is, talking to his beloved Communist adviser Valerie Jarrett and his other Socialist and Communist advisers. Van Jones

    August 8, 2011 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  13. The Day of Financial Reckoning is HERE - The Great Democrat Welfare Society Ends

    Republican spending bills sent to Bush
    Bush Derangment Syndrome continues unabated 3 years after he leaves office. No grasp on reality is confirmed. Please report to the emergency room for treatment.

    Tax cuts do not create jobs. There is NO evidence or historical record for that.
    Really??? Why did JFK do it then? One thing is for sure, tax INCREASES sure don't create private sector jobs, just bloated government waste and government overhead. When you suck all the money out of taxpayers wallets or corporate earnings then that is all much less that can be used for investement or spending. Less money for spending or investing is bad for any economy. Ever take an economics course?

    August 8, 2011 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  14. Fair is Fair

    "The loonies in congress are now running our country"
    The republicans are in control of 1/2 of 1/3 of the government... did Obama abdicate and I missed it???

    August 8, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  15. Discernment


    It was the blue-collar voting idiots that were bamboozled in 2010 election by Tea Party GOP Republicans whose only governing policy was to find out where President Obama stood on any issue, and then obstruct or destroy what Obama put forth.

    The Tea Party has not put forth a single jobs bill since 2010 election. NOT ONE! President Obama's only fault was to continue to compromise with Tea Party haters. Ironically, Obama compromised with Tea Party haters when the Tea Party only put forth ideas that have already failed miserably during the Bush II administration.


    August 8, 2011 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  16. Roedy Green

    CNN keeps stating that even with a lower rating there is no other plausible place to put your money than US bonds. How about Canada? It offers AAA and higher interest. I think CNN is indulging in wishful thinking.

    August 8, 2011 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  17. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    We need people who are willing to put a little profit aside and put in the money for R&D and putting job here. We need people who are patriots running businesses. We don't need people who put profits above all. Look at the products that appear on the shelfs of Wal-Mart, Target and other places. Where are they made? Outside the US which is hurting this country. We need to have things made here and invent the machines that do it better.

    Banks need to look at the small business and open up a little more to them rather than the huge companies.

    August 8, 2011 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  18. Shivi

    Here is the answer....legalize marijuana. It can be taxed, and give relief to all the depressed and discouraged citizens of this country.

    August 8, 2011 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  19. Bob S Philadelphia, Pa

    Frank – Ohio......................Two words for you ! ! ! ...................................AMEN BROTHER ! ! ! ! ! ! !

    August 8, 2011 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  20. Hall

    IBad ideas and poor leadership kill American confidence. Obama is one and done but I sure am hoping he can pull it together and make some sound decisons for the sake of the country before he leaves office.

    August 8, 2011 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  21. Four and The Door

    ...The Tea Party has not put forth a single jobs bill since 2010 election.
    In fact they did and it passed the House of Representatives on July 19th. Even 5 Democrats voted for it. But Harry Reid and the Democratic Senate did not pass it and Obama claimed he would veto it. We know the bill as Cut, Cap and Balance. It is a jobs creating bill that actually saves the government money at the same time.

    August 8, 2011 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. gt

    the tea party did not casue this mess.... the banks lent to much money to people who could not afford it...american greed is what cause this mess.. not bush , not tea party . not obama....but we need some one anyone to step up and have americans get behind him or her... there is a vacuum of leaderhip from obama. right now...please step up sir..

    August 8, 2011 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  23. Bob S Philadelphia, Pa

    Discernment.............................WOW what a STEPFORD NOBAMAITE refuse to hold him accountable for anything he says or does ! ! ! Did the tea party add 14 TRILLION DOLLARS to our DEBT?? I think not O yea that's right that was Bush's fault just like anything else NOBAMA does you NOBAMAITES need to keep drinking the KOOL – AIDE so things keep looking rosey and bright ! !

    August 8, 2011 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  24. mejazzbo

    Sounds like the world has a bad case of economic jitters right along with the US.

    August 8, 2011 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  25. Bob S Philadelphia, Pa

    Four and The Door...................... great post here is another way to save a little cash not a lot but it's a start........

    Salary of the US President...$400,000. Salary of retired US Presidents...$180,000. Salary of House/Senate...$174,000. Salary of Speaker of House...$223,500.... Salary of Majority/Minority Leaders...$193,400.......... Average US Salary...$33,000 to $77,000. HELLO! I think we found where the cuts should be made!

    August 8, 2011 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
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