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U.S. Economic Confidence Climbs for Fifth Straight Month

Americans' optimism about future direction of economy pushes index higher

by Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' confidence in the economy improved for the fifth month in a row in January, with Gallup's Economic Confidence Index reaching -27, its highest point since May of last year. Americans, however, are not yet as confident as they were a year ago.

Gallup Economic Confidence Index -- Monthly Averages

Americans' confidence in the economy has been improving every month since August, when it hit recession levels, plummeting to -52 after the heated battle over the federal debt ceiling in Washington, and Standard and Poor's subsequent Aug. 5 downgrading of the nation's credit rating.

Weekly economic confidence was relatively high throughout January, ranging from -29 to -25. The -25 recorded last week and in the week ending Jan. 22 are the best weekly readings since May 2011.

Gallup Economic Confidence Index -- Weekly Averages Since May 2011

Gallup's Economic Confidence Index measures Americans' ratings of economic conditions today and their perceptions of whether economic conditions in the country as a whole are "getting better" or "getting worse."

Americans' increasing optimism about the economy's direction is largely responsible for the improvement in the overall monthly index. The percentage of Americans who say economic conditions are getting better has doubled since August, climbing to 36% in January. This is the most positive Americans have been on this metric since May, but still not quite as positive as they were in January of last year (41%).

Right now, do you think that economic conditions in the country as a whole are getting better or getting worse? Trend, January 2008-January 2012

Americans' ratings of current economic conditions also improved in January, but to a somewhat lesser degree; still, they have essentially recovered to May levels.

How would you rate economic conditions in this country today -- as excellent, good, only fair, or poor? 2008-2012 trend

Economic Confidence Improves Across Income Groups

Upper-income and middle- and lower-income Americans' confidence in the economy improved in January, to the highest ratings since May of last year.

Economic confidence among upper-income Americans had sunk below that of middle- and lower-income Americans in August. However, it has since recovered, and again is better than that of their lower-income counterparts -- as is typical.

Economic Confidence Index, Monthly Averages, January 2008-January 2012

Bottom Line

Americans' confidence in the economy increased in January, as Gallup's Economic Confidence Index rose to -27, improving for the fifth month in a row. An improving jobs situation over the past several months has likely contributed to Americans' growing positivity.

It is possible that Gallup will pick up further improvement this week after the very positive Labor Department unemployment report out last Friday, which sent the Nasdaq to an 11-year high and gave the Dow its best close since 2008.

Still, economic news changes quickly, and job market momentum will need to continue if the improvement in Americans' economic confidence is to persist. Economic confidence still has a long way to go to get into positive territory. reports results from these indexes in daily, weekly, and monthly averages and in stories. Complete trend data are always available to view and export in the following charts:

Daily: Employment, Economic Confidence and Job Creation, Consumer Spending
Weekly: Employment, Economic Confidence, Job Creation, Consumer Spending

Read more about Gallup's economic measures.

View our economic release schedule.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted on a monthly basis from January 2008 to January 2012. Each month, Gallup on its Gallup Daily Tracking survey conducts interviews with a random sample of approximately 15,000 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

During the period of Jan. 1-31, 2012, Gallup conducted interviews with a random sample of 15,013 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. 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, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 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


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