How do Americans feel about the economy? Not very hopeful, poll finds.
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Amid rising inflation and uncertainty about the trajectory of the pandemic, a new poll finds that over half of Americans are “extremely worried” about the direction of the country over the next 12 months.
The most recent Mood of the Nation poll was conducted by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State in collaboration with APM Research Lab (which is part of the same organization that produces “Marketplace”) between Nov. 30 and Dec. 7.
Eric Plutzer, a political science professor at Penn State and director of polling at the McCourtney Institute, spoke to “Marketplace’s” David Brancaccio about the poll’s findings. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
David Brancaccio: A majority of Americans said they were extremely worried about where the country is headed, and hope in the future was not in large supply in this survey. Were you surprised?
Eric Plutzer: I don’t think we were surprised by the levels, but I do think we were surprised by the types of things that Americans told us they were worried about.
Brancaccio: COVID, of course — but what about hope or worry about the economy, given superduperlow unemployment at the point that you were checking?
Plutzer: People are not very concerned about jobs. They’re not very concerned about unemployment. But they are very concerned about prices, inflation. And so overall, the economy was the main policy area that concerned Americans.
Brancaccio: But it was interesting, I was looking at your data — the economy didn’t rank all that high just as a general subject. People are worried about other things.
Plutzer: Yes, we were very surprised. People are certainly concerned about COVID; they’re concerned about the economy; they’re concerned about international affairs. But they view keeping their power if they’re Democrats, or getting their power back as Republicans, as their main concern.
Brancaccio: I could just imagine, professor, when you were planning this survey in advance, and you’re thinking, “OK, it’s going to be Nov. 30 through Dec. 7. And, you know, we’ll be going into the holidays. I’ll find some hope.” And then, of course, omicron is bannered across every headline during your survey.
Plutzer: Yes, that certainly must have put a damper on things. And what I would say is that, on the hope side, we had very few people that were extremely hopeful, but we also didn’t hit our all-time high for people that couldn’t name anything [to be hopeful about]. In previous surveys — one in 2016, for example, when we asked people what they were hopeful about, 4 in 10 couldn’t name a single thing. So [this time] very few people said they were extremely hopeful, but most people could come up with something — and they might be a little hopeful, somewhat hopeful. And so I would say that, basically, the country is really worried but cautiously optimistic. And it’s possible for them to hold both of those ideas at the same time.
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