WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' confidence in the U.S. economy appeared to be improving after the partial government shutdown ended Thursday and lawmakers reached an agreement to avoid defaulting on the nation's debt. Gallup's Economic Confidence Index averaged -36 last week, up from -39 the prior week. This marks the first time economic confidence has improved since the week ending Sept. 15, when federal budget and debt ceiling negotiations were intensifying.
Gallup's three-day rolling averages reveal that most of the improvement happened toward the end of last week after lawmakers reached a deal. The index was -40 for Monday-Wednesday interviewing and -33 for Friday-Sunday interviewing. This signals that Americans' confidence in the economy may rebound relatively quickly, as it did after lawmakers avoided the "fiscal cliff" in late 2012 and after sequestration budget cuts took effect in early March.
Wall Street responded positively after lawmakers reached the deal, which may have boosted Americans' confidence. The S&P 500 ended the week at an all-time high and the Dow finished up on Friday, slightly under its September peak.
Still, from a broader perspective, the Gallup Economic Confidence Index -- which is based on Americans' assessments of current U.S. economic conditions and their perceptions of whether the economy is getting better or worse -- remains entrenched in negative territory. The index is significantly lower than it was in late May and early June of this year, when it peaked at -3.
Assessments of Current Conditions and Future Outlook Improve
Last week, 69% of Americans said the economy was getting worse, while 27% said it was getting better. The resulting -42 net economic outlook score is up from -46 the week before.
Americans' assessments of current economic conditions saw a smaller increase. Fifteen percent of Americans said current conditions are "excellent" or "good," and 45% said they are "poor." The resulting -30 net current conditions score is up from -32 the prior week.
Since mid-September, Americans' perceptions of the economy's direction have declined more than twice as much as their assessments of current conditions.
The partial government shutdown and prospect of the nation defaulting on its debts clearly shook Americans' confidence in the economy -- particularly their perceptions about where the economy is headed -- during the past month. However, Gallup's Economic Confidence Index rose three points last week, suggesting that Americans' confidence may be starting to recover. Gallup also found that the shutdown and resulting drop in economic confidence did not appear to pull the plug on Americans' holiday spending plans.
Still, some key factors could stifle Americans' confidence in the economy in the days and weeks ahead. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is planning Tuesday to release its September labor report, which was delayed because of the shutdown. Gallup's unemployment data suggest that the BLS will likely report no change in the unemployment rate. Additionally, Americans have reported a worse hiring situation at their places of employment so far in October, and higher mortgage rates seem to be affecting the housing market recovery. These factors may play into Americans' evaluations of the economy, but the fiscal agreements reached last week appear to have economic confidence moving in a positive direction.
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 Oct. 14-20, 2013, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 3,566 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.