WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gallup's U.S. Economic Confidence Index registered -16 last week, a slight improvement from -18 the previous week, but still four points below the 2013 index average of -12. Prior to last week, Americans' confidence in the economy had generally been on a downward trajectory, after nearly reaching positive territory in late May and early June.
The crisis in Syria and its potential impact on energy prices, as well as stagnant job growth, the upcoming negotiations on the federal debt limit, and market uncertainty about when and by how much the Federal Reserve will taper its bond purchasing are all likely contributors to the lower confidence levels in recent weeks. However, there are some recent positive signs that may help counteract some of the negative sentiment, including higher self-reported consumer spending and strong stock market performance amid increasing exports from China.
Gallup's Economic Confidence Index is based on Americans' ratings of current economic conditions in the U.S. and their assessments of whether the economy is getting better or worse. Currently, 40% of Americans say the economy is getting better and 55% say worse. That results in a net economic outlook score of -15, two points higher than the prior's week -17. However, the latest outlook score is seven points lower than the overall 2013 average of -8.
Americans' net current conditions score was -17 last week, compared with -18 the prior week. Last week's score represents 19% of Americans saying the economy is "excellent" or "good," while 36% say it is "poor."
Although Americans have generally been more confident in the U.S. economy this year than they were last year, they are still more negative than positive in their assessments of current conditions and the economy's direction.
Economic confidence may not move into positive territory in the short term. Uncertainty about Syria continues as President Barack Obama and Congress debate the merits of military intervention there. Oil prices are partially tied to stability in the Middle East, and although Syria itself does not produce much oil, the surrounding countries do, and may find themselves engulfed in the conflict if things progress. Or they could decide to export less due to being upset with the U.S. for intervening. Still, on Monday, after a full weekend of discussion of the Syrian crisis, stock prices rose significantly on all major indexes.
Furthermore, as Gallup data have shown, U.S. economic confidence can be sensitive to political events, such as the 2011 capture of Osama bin Laden and the federal debt ceiling negotiations the same year. The possibility of more partisan gridlock in the upcoming debt ceiling negotiations may negatively affect confidence in the coming months as well.
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 for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 2-8, 2013, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 3,557 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 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 sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone 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 to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
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.