Americans Divided Between Hope, Pessimism On Economy

January 16, 2013

NEW YORK, Jan. 16, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- A recent Harris Poll captures American sentiments in the midst of the fiscal cliff battle, showing that even during this period U.S. adults were divided between hope that the economy would improve in the coming year (33%) and pessimism that it would get worse (36%). 

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,176 adults surveyed online between December 12 and 18, 2012 by http://www.harrisinteractive.com/.

Perhaps more notably, fewer Americans than at any point since June 2010 were expecting the economy to remain the same (31%, down from 47% just one year prior).  Additionally, the perception that the economy would get worse was at its highest point on record.

Americans were sharply divided on this issue when examined through the lens of metropolitan status; those living in urban regions were far more likely to anticipate the economy improving (45%) than getting worse (24%) in 2013, while the opposite was true among those in rural areas (52% get worse, 23% improve).  Suburban Americans were divided fairly evenly between expecting the economy to improve (32%), stay the same (35%) and get worse (34%).

However, while the fiscal cliff and other external factors might be concerning Americans, a strong majority still saw the weight of responsibility for their financial well-being as resting on their own shoulders, with the highest percentage by a considerable margin perceiving themselves as "Extremely" or "Very" responsible for how financially secure they will feel in 2013 (76%); also of note is that this perspective was consistent across both generational and gender lines.  While the majority also indicated this across all metro statuses, it is worth noting that rural Americans (79%) were more likely to do so than those in urban areas (71%).

Nearly half of Americans also indicated perceiving Congress (47%) and the President (45%) as responsible for their financial security.

Perceived responsibility was higher among older Americans for both Congress (40% ages 18-35, 43% ages 36-47, 53% ages 48-66, 50% ages 67+) and the President (39%, 44%, 49% and 50%, respectively).

Men were more likely than women to rate the President (49% and 42%, respectively) and Wall Street (33% and 27%, respectively) either "Extremely" or "Very" responsible.

Perceived responsibility ratings for "Your employer" (33%), "Wall Street" (30%) and "Large corporations" (26%) were all down from 2008 findings (44%, 40% and 37%, respectively).

Ways and Means
Taking responsibility for their financial well-being is one thing – but what are Americans specifically willing to do in order to ensure their 2013 will find them in the black?

Nearly half (45%) anticipated cutting back on spending in 2013, four in ten (40%) anticipated paying down their level of debt and over one-third (37%) were planning on saving more in the year ahead.  Overall, more than three-fourths (77%) of Americans indicated they would be making at least one change in 2013 in regards to their finances.

In comparison to the prior December, financial plans for the coming year were largely stable, though there were small increases for "Save more for retirement" (16% 2011 vs. 20% 2012), "Undertake home improvements that increase the value of my home" (11% and 14%, respectively) and "Invest in less risky investments" (5% and 8%, respectively).

However, when looking back as far as 2008, there were several major drops – these included "Cut back on my household spending" (55% 2008 vs. 45% 2012), "get rid of one or more credit cards" (24% and 17%, respectively), "Pay down my level of debt" (45% and 40%, respectively) and "Save more in the year ahead" (42% and 37%, respectively).

The majority of planned financial changes for 2013 were stronger among those with children under 18 in their households than among those without.

But how likely are Americans to see their good intentions through?  If past experience is anything to go by, quite!  Among those Americans who indicated they had planned on taking the same series of financially responsible actions in 2012, "Planned on doing it in 2012 and did follow through" responses consistently outpaced "Planned on doing it in 2012 but did not follow through."  Plans Americans showed the strongest likelihood to follow through on included:

"Cut back on my household spending" (47% planned and followed through vs. 16% planned but did not, a 2.9:1 ratio),

"Pay down my level of debt" (40%, 15% and 2.7:1, respectively) and

"Invest in less risky investments" (11%, 4% and 2.8:1, respectively).

So What?
Perhaps the most important thing to take away from this snapshot of December 2012 sentiments is that Americans were largely keeping their heads, and making responsible plans and embracing an attitude of self-determinism.  But now that the cliff has been averted, might these attitudes be changing?  That is the question for retailers, banks, lawmakers as well as consumers.

 

 

TABLE 1a
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE ECONOMY IN THE COMING YEAR - TREND
"In the coming year, do you expect the economy to...?"

Base: All adults

 

2009

2010

2011

2012

April

May

Aug

Sept

Oct

May

June

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Dec

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

39

38

46

40

34

38

30

29

28

30

34

29

23

33

Stay the same

35

35

32

36

37

34

42

39

40

40

41

45

47

31

Get worse

26

27

22

24

29

28

28

32

32

30

25

26

29

36

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

 

 

 

TABLE 1b
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE ECONOMY IN THE COMING YEAR
"In the coming year, do you expect the economy to...?"

Base: All adults

 

Total

Generation

Metro Status

Echo
Boomers

(18-35)

Gen. X

(36-47)

Baby
Boomers

(48-66)

Matures

(67+)

Urban

Suburban

Rural

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

33

32

31

34

34

45

32

23

Stay the same

31

42

32

25

25

31

35

25

Get worse

36

26

37

41

41

24

34

52

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

 

 

 

 

 

TABLE 2a
GROUPS/INDIVIDUALS RESPONSIBLE FOR HOW FINANCIALLY SECURE YOU WILL FEEL IN 2013
[Summary of combined "Extremely responsible" and "Very responsible" ratings]
"How responsible do you think each of the following groups or individuals is for how financially secure you will feel in 2013?"

Base: All U.S. Adults

 

2012 Total

Generation

Gender

Metro Status

Echo Boomers

(18-35)

Gen. X

(36-47)

Baby Boomers

(48-66)

Matures

(67+)

Males

Females

Urban

Sub-urban

Rural

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Yourself

76

73

78

77

78

76

77

71

77

79

Congress

47

40

43

53

50

48

45

40

48

51

The president

45

39

44

49

50

49

42

44

44

49

Your family

38

40

45

35

35

36

40

34

40

39

State government

37

35

34

41

34

38

35

35

37

38

Your employer

33

47

40

29

10

34

32

33

36

28

Wall Street

30

24

29

34

32

33

27

29

32

25

Local government

29

29

26

31

26

30

28

31

27

29

Large corporations

26

25

25

27

24

25

26

26

26

24

Note: Multiple response question

 

 

 

TABLE 2b
GROUPS/INDIVIDUALS RESPONSIBLE FOR HOW FINANCIALLY SECURE YOU WILL FEEL IN 2013
[Summary of combined "Extremely responsible" and "Very responsible" ratings]
"How responsible do you think each of the following groups or individuals is for how financially secure you will feel in 2013*?"

Base: All U.S. adults

 

Extremely/

Very

Responsible

(NET)

Extremely responsible

Very Responsible

Somewhat responsible

Not Responsible (NET)

Not Very

Responsible

Not at all responsible

Not

sure

2008

2012

2008

2012

2008

2012

2008

2012

2008

2012

2008

2012

2008

2012

2008

2012

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Yourself

77

76

55

50

23

26

11

14

7

5

3

3

4

2

4

4

Congress

48

47

27

24

21

23

24

20

22

25

11

13

11

11

6

8

The President

46

45

27

25

19

20

26

24

22

24

11

12

11

12

6

6

Your family

41

38

18

15

23

24

22

25

31

30

15

13

16

17

6

7

State government

38

37

17

14

21

23

32

32

24

24

15

15

9

9

6

8

Your employer

44

33

22

13

22

20

21

24

21

24

5

7

16

17

15

19

Wall Street

40

30

23

13

17

17

23

26

30

31

15

17

15

14

7

13

Local government

30

29

13

11

17

18

32

34

32

28

20

19

12

10

6

9

Large corporations

37

26

20

10

17

15

25

28

31

35

17

19

14

16

7

12

Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding; In 2008 this question asked about 2009.

 

TABLE 3a
2013 FINANCIAL EXPECTATIONS – vs. Previous Years
"Which of the following do you expect to do in 2013* in regards to your finances?"

Base: All U.S. adults

 

2008

2010

2011

2012

%

%

%

%

Cut back on my household spending

55

49

45

45

Pay down my level of debt

45

41

39

40

Save more in the year ahead

42

40

36

37

Save more for retirement

21

22

16

20

Get rid of one or more credit cards

24

22

16

17

Undertake home improvements that increase the value of my home

14

13

11

14

Invest in less risky investments

9

8

5

8

Refinance my mortgage

5

6

5

5

Take out a home equity line of credit

2

2

1

1

Other

6

6

5

5

I don't expect to do anything different financially in 2013*

16

18

23

23

Note: Multiple response question; In 2008 this question asked about financial activity for 2009, in 2010 it was asked about 2011, in 2011 it was asked about 2012.

 

TABLE 3b
2013 FINANCIAL EXPECTATIONS – By Generation & Children in HH
"Which of the following do you expect to do in 2013* in regards to your finances?"

Base: All adults

 

Total

Generation

Children <18 in hh

Echo Boomers

(18-35)

Gen. X

(36-47)

Baby Boomers

(48-66)

Matures

(67+)

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Cut back on my household spending

45

46

50

47

35

51

43

Pay down my level of debt

40

42

50

41

22

47

37

Save more in the year ahead

37

53

43

29

17

46

33

Save more for retirement

20

25

25

20

6

26

18

Get rid of one or more credit cards

17

13

24

18

14

18

17

Undertake home improvements that increase the value of my home

14

14

16

15

9

17

13

Invest in less risky investments

8

11

2

8

9

7

8

Refinance my mortgage

5

4

9

5

3

9

4

Take out a home equity line of credit

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

Other

5

8

5

4

3

5

5

I don't expect to do anything different financially in 2013*

23

19

18

21

41

15

26

Note: Multiple response question; In 2009 this question asked about financial activity for 2010, in 2010 it was asked about 2011, in 2011 it was asked about 2012.

 

TABLE 4
ACTIONS PLANNED/TAKEN IN 2012
"And, thinking about the past year, please select the statement which best describes how you approached these in regards to your finances for 2012."

Base: All U.S. Adults

 

Planned on doing in 2012 and did follow through

Planned on doing in 2012 but did not follow through

[Among those who
planned on doing]

Follow-Through Ratio

Had no plans to do so / NA

%

%

Did:Didn't

%

Cut back on my household spending

47

16

2.9:1

37

Pay down my level of debt

40

15

2.7:1

46

Save more in the year ahead

31

26

1.2:1

42

Save more for retirement

23

17

1.4:1

60

Undertake home improvements that
increase the value of my home

21

10

2.1:1

69

Get rid of one or more of my credit cards

19

10

1.9:1

71

Invest in less risky investments

11

4

2.8:1

85

Refinance my mortgage

9

6

1.5:1

85

Take out a home equity line of credit

4

4

1:1

93

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

Methodology
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United Statesbetween December 12 and 18, 2012 among 2,176 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

 

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll®#2, January 16, 2013

By Larry Shannon Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll® and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research. Harris possesses expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing our client's research investment. Serving clients in more than 196 countries and territories through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us - and our clients—stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit http://www.harrisinteractive.com/.

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
Harris Interactive
212-539-9600 
mailto:[email protected]

 

 

SOURCE Harris Interactive

Source:  PR Newswire Association LLC
Wordcount:  2478

 


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