PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' confidence in the U.S. economy retreated slightly in the week ending Feb. 19, but remains better than January's average and significantly improved over late 2011 levels. The Gallup Economic Confidence Index averaged -23 last week, down from -20 the week prior.
U.S. public perceptions about the health of the nation's economy have been improving since last fall, after dipping to a near-record weekly low of -54 last summer, and last week's -20 score was the highest seen in a year. The pace of improvement, however, seems to have slowed in February.
After rising nine points in December (from -43 to -34) and by the same amount in January (from -34 to -25), the Gallup Economic Confidence Index in the middle of February is just two points higher than it was at the start of the month, -23 vs. -25.
Deterioration in the job market may be partially to blame for this apparent deceleration in economic confidence, as Gallup finds U.S. unemployment rising to 9.0% thus far in February from 8.6% in January.
Current and Outlook Ratings Show Similar Dip
Both dimensions of the Gallup Economic Index ebbed last week. The Gallup current conditions rating -- a measure of whether more Americans rate the present economy in positive terms or negative terms -- fell to -31 from -27. The economic outlook rating -- indicating the extent to which Americans think the economy is either improving or worsening -- fell to -15 from -12.
Still, Americans' economic outlook remains significantly more upbeat than their perceptions of current economic conditions, conforming to the pattern established in late December.
Longer term, Americans' economic confidence has yet to recover to the -18 level seen at the start of February 2011, but is comparable to confidence in early January 2010 -- at the start of President Obama's second year in office -- and in the first week of January 2008, prior to the global financial collapse.
Confidence today is well above that seen in January 2009, as the Wall Street financial crisis and the government's response to it were still unfolding.
Americans are far less discouraged about the economy today than they were throughout the second half of 2011, and their confidence continues to recover in 2012. Gallup's February Economic Confidence Index readings have averaged a few points higher than January's average. However, even as confidence is generally rising, it can decline somewhat from week to week, as seen in last week's slight retreat to -23 from -20. Gallup's upcoming reports on Economic Confidence, reported daily on the basis of three-day rolling averages, and weekly each Tuesday morning, will reveal whether Americans' economic mood is leveling off -- perhaps weighed down by rising unemployment -- or still looking up.
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:
Read more about Gallup's economic measures.
View our economic release schedule.
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Feb. 13-19, 2012, with a random sample of 3,424 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 ±2 percentage points.
are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup Daily tracking survey MONTH D-D, 2011, with a random sample of 1,XXX [adults/registered voters], aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of [national adults/registered voters], one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 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 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.
The questions reported here were asked of a random half-sample of respondents for seven nights on the Gallup Daily tracking survey.
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.