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Economic anxiety is keeping people up at night

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Marketplace’s Washington Bureau Chief Dave Shaw explains the Marketplace-Edison Research Poll results.

On the economic backdrop:

This is something that we encounter all the time on Marketplace. We’re reporting about the numbers that show the relative strength of the economy, and these numbers keep getting better month after month — employment, housing, all of these numbers. Yet, when you go out and you talk to actual people who are living in the economy, it doesn’t show up. It just doesn’t feel that way. For a lot of people, the recovery doesn’t feel like one. That’s what we set out to try to answer in this poll.

On economic anxiety:

There’s a lot of anxiety. People feel anxious. They feel stuck. They feel insecure. We asked a great question, “Does your financial situation cause you to lose sleep?” More than one in four of the people who responded said, “Yes, I am currently losing sleep over my financial situation.” Behind all of these numbers, there are real people who are living this.

On hourly workers vs. salaried workers:

This is one of the spots that there is a real divide in the survey in terms of the stress and the anxiety that hourly workers [feel] is so much greater than the stress and the anxiety felt by people who know what their paycheck is going to be every week, or every other week.

On the role of government in the economy:

We didn’t really get into politics. This is not a horse race poll, but we did ask people, “Are you a Democrat, do you lean Democratic? Are you Republican, do you lean Republican?” We’re able to put all of that data together and get a sense of how people feel about the issues based on their political persuasion. That’s what’s interesting here is that a vast majority …. regardless of political affiliation, support the social safety net. We asked them, “Should the government have a role in providing unemployment insurance for folks who lose their jobs, job training, college tuition assistance for low-and middle-income people?” Even when you break it down by party, there’s overwhelming support for those topics.

On the American Dream:

It’s interesting, because there’s a lot of anxiety, and there’s a lot of insecurity, but there’s still a belief in the system. Among those who we surveyed, nearly 80 percent said hard work is more important than luck when it comes to achieving the financial situation that you want to have. That’s a clear majority … one interesting thing about that American Dream question is that the subgroup most likely to say it’s alive and well is the youngest cohort, and these are the folks who’ve really taken it on the chin the last five or 10 years.

On the Marketplace-Edison Research Economic Anxiety Index:

It is a measure of a person’s concern about their financial situation, their job security, and how much they worry about paying their bills every month and setting aside money for things that are important to them like retirement, children’s education. It’s a number. It goes from zero to 100, and based on how you answer a subset of the questions that are in our poll, you get a score, and the higher the score, the more anxiety you’re feeling. The mean score of all the people we asked is 31. Taken alone, that doesn’t tell us much, but when you start to compare subgroups, you really get a sense for who’s more stressed out and who’s bearing the brunt of the economic downturn as it exists still today.


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