Attitude Check

Attitude Check: The State of the Union

Frank Newport Jan 19, 2012

Adriene Hill: On Tuesday, President Obama will give the state of the union address. He’ll no doubt tackle the economy: where it is today, how to grow it. With that, it’s time for our weekly Attitude Check. We want to know how Americans are feeling about the state of their union, and the economy.

So we turn to Frank Newport — as we do every week. He’s the editor-in-chief at the polling firm Gallup. Good morning Frank.

Frank Newport: Good morning.

Hill: So when we’re talking about the overall economy, how’s the confidence of the American people right now?

Newport: Well, you know, we have a number of measures of the economy from the people’s perspective. Classic consumer confidence — we called it economic confidence — is actually getting a little better now than earlier this year. Obama’s going to make his State of the Union address, and compared to four years ago, it’s a lot better. Because when he took over in January ’09 it was terrible — really in the depths back then.

Other measures we have — just 29 percent of Americans right now say that they are better off than a year ago. And that, actually, is one of the lower readings on that personal measure that we’ve seen, going way back to the 70s.

Hill: What else do we know about how people are feeling about their personal economic situation right now?

Newport: We also ask Americans — and this is fascinating — look ahead a year: Do you think you’ll be better off or worse off financially in a year from now? And their optimism springs eternal — that’s always been the case. We have almost six in ten Americans right now who say they will be better off a year from now than they are now.

This is important for Barack Obama. That optimism is a little higher than it was in 1992 and 1980. And those were two years where the incumbent president was defeated.

Hill: What changes have you spotted in people’s attitudes towards the economy in the last few months?

Newport: General consumer confidence, as your standard of living is measures, those types of things that we track on a daily basis — we are seeing an uptick. We are seeing more confidence coming into the new year. We really had an uptick in that measure. So we think, generally speaking, when the average Jane or John Doe out there is asked about the U.S. economy, they say: hey, things are looking a little better.

Hill: Frank Newport is editor-in-chief at the polling firm Gallup. Thanks so much.

Newport: My pleasure.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.