Americans’ Personal Outlook for 2014: The “Blahs” Have It

economic pessimismThe U.S. stock market may have achieved record-high performance in 2013, but a December 2013 poll of American consumers, conducted by Harris Interactive, is painting a decidedly different picture when it comes to the outlook for the New Year.

The degree of pessimism manifests itself in a higher percentage of adults believing that the economy will get worse (~32%) compared to those who feel it will get better (~27%).

The most optimistic contingent are Baby Boomers (age 49 to 67), where nearly 30% feel the economy will improve in 2014.  The opposite is true with the very youngest group (age 18 to 36), where only ~23% think the American economy will improve this year.

And the most pessimistic group when it comes to believing the economy will get worse?  That would be the oldest contingent (people age 68 and older), ~40% of whom share this opinion.

The message Americans seem to be sending is this:  “We may be in the fifth year of a recovery … but we’re still waiting for it to hit us.”

Comparing these Harris figures to what the pollsters recorded a year earlier, it’s interesting that the percentage of people who envision the economy “staying the same” has grown by ~11 percentage points.  So, treading water appears to be the order of the day.

How Americans are responding in their own personal lives to their views of the economy correlate to their level of general optimism or pessimism.  Here’s what the survey found in terms of their intentions for the year:

  • Cut back on my household spending:  ~45%
  • Save more in the year ahead:  ~40%
  • Pay down my debt level:  ~40%
  • Save more for retirement:  ~23%
  • Get rid of one or more credit card:  ~15%

Broadly speaking, the Harris poll findings point to a distinctly blasé environment.  And it helps explain the mediocre holiday shopping season we just witnessed – more than inclement weather and a shorter shopping days calendar can explain.

More Harris Interactive poll result details are available here.

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