PRINCETON, NJ -- In a difficult economic year in which residents of all states rated economic conditions negatively, those living in the District of Columbia and South Dakota expressed a greater degree of confidence in the U.S. economy than did residents in other states. Economic confidence was lowest in Wyoming, Michigan, West Virginia, and Nevada.
Gallup's Economic Confidence Index is an average of two measures -- one asking respondents to rate current economic conditions as excellent, good, only fair, or poor, and the other asking respondents to assess whether the economy is getting better or getting worse. The Index has a theoretical range of -100 to +100, with negative scores indicating respondents are more negative than positive about the economy. The results reported here are based on Gallup Daily tracking data from 2009, consisting of more than 170,000 interviews in all 50 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia.
"In all but one state, the 2009 index scores were improved from 2008, and in most of the states the improvement was substantial."
Though the questions that constitute Gallup's Economic Confidence Index ask respondents to evaluate the national economy, their local experiences surely color their assessments. Many of the states that have been especially hurt by the recent economic downturn rank among the 10 least confident states.
From a broad perspective, both the top 10 and bottom 10 states are diverse groups regionally and politically. However, half of the top 10 consists of states from the upper Midwest -- North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota.
Current Conditions Versus Future Expectations in the 50 States
Looking at each component of the Economic Confidence Index separately, only as many as 17% of residents in any state (North Dakota) rated current economic conditions positively last year, underscoring the poor shape of the economy as perceived by the average American. In 22 states a majority described economic conditions as poor, including a high of 59% in Nevada and Michigan.
Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota had the least negative ratings of current economic conditions last year, based on the percentage in each state rating the economy as excellent or good minus the percentage rating it poor. But even in these states, more than twice as many rated conditions poor as rated them excellent or good. Michigan and Nevada had the most negative ratings of current conditions by this measure.
In terms of a forward look at the economy, residents of the District of Columbia were the most likely to believe that economic conditions were getting better -- 46% said this, easily the highest in the nation. Meanwhile, West Virginia and Wyoming residents were the least likely to say the economy was improving, with West Virginians having a slightly more negative view of the economy's direction because a higher percentage said the economy was getting worse.
Confidence Improves in 2009
Though Gallup's Economic Confidence Index remained in negative territory throughout 2009 (and was negative for the year in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia), Americans were more optimistic about the economy in 2009 than they were in 2008. In fact, in all but one state (Wyoming), the 2009 index scores were improved from 2008, and in most of the states the improvement was substantial. The average increase in consumer confidence across all states was 14 points.
The District of Columbia saw the greatest gains in economic confidence in 2009, 34 points, followed by Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maryland. Perhaps not coincidentally, these states tend to be Democratically oriented in their politics, and their much-improved economic outlook could be partly the result of the switch from a Republican to a Democratic presidential administration last year. In addition to Wyoming, whose score fell from -43 to -47, Montana and Idaho showed the least improvement. These three states ranked among the 10 most Republican in 2009 according to Gallup, with Wyoming the most Republican.
Despite significant improvement last year, Americans remained downbeat in their economic evaluations. All states plus the District of Columbia had negative scores on Gallup's Economic Confidence Index in 2009, with the District of Columbia and South Dakota being more optimistic than other states. The new year does not seem to have brought additional gains in consumer confidence thus far: a month into 2010, economic confidence remains in negative territory and similar to levels Gallup observed for much of 2009.
Gallup's "State of the States" series reveals state-by-state differences on political, economic, and wellbeing measures Gallup tracks each day. New stories will be released throughout the month of February.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 173,567 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 2-Dec. 30, 2009, as part of Gallup Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error is ±1 percentage point.
Margin of error for most states is ±2 percentage points, but is as high as ±7 percentage points for the District of Columbia and ±6 percentage points for Delaware, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones and cellular phones.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.