PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's Economic Confidence measure worsened to its lowest weekly level of 2011, -26, in the week ending Feb. 20. This essentially matches the -27 of the same week a year ago, giving up improvement seen earlier this year.
Both measures that make up Gallup's Economic Confidence Index deteriorated during the week ending Feb. 20. In rating current economic conditions, 44% of Americans said they are "poor," a slight worsening from 40% the prior week and about the same as the 46% of the same week in 2010.
At the same time, 37% of Americans said future economic conditions are "getting better," down from 43% the previous week and matching the 38% of the same week in 2010.
Any number of factors could explain why consumers may be less optimistic about the future course of the economy. A deteriorating unemployment situation, increasing gas prices, expectations that food and energy prices may go higher, the battle over government spending in Washington, D.C., the confrontation over collective bargaining in Wisconsin, and the chaos in the Middle East could all be playing a role. Whatever the cause, Americans' decreased economic confidence last week reverses a more positive trend recorded earlier this year. It is worth noting that the Great Recession began with surging oil prices in early 2008.
Optimism is no better now than it was a year ago, also suggesting that little progress has been made economically over the past 12 months. Up to this point in 2011, there seems to have been a relatively great amount of optimism about the U.S. economy going forward. Whether last week's deterioration in consumer confidence is the beginning of a new trend or just a short-term aberration remains to be seen.
Gallup.com reports results from these indexes in daily, weekly, and monthly averages and in Gallup.com stories. Complete trend data are always available to view and export in the following charts:
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Results are based on telephone interviews conducted with 3,434 respondents, aged 18 and older, as part of Gallup Daily tracking during the week ending Feb. 20, 2011, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total weekly sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 200 cell phone respondents and 800 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.