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On Economy, Americans Less Confident in Federal Leaders

On Economy, Americans Less Confident in Federal Leaders

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Less than half of Americans (42%) have confidence in President Barack Obama on doing or recommending the right thing for the economy -- the lowest figure Gallup has on record for him. New lows in confidence were also found for Democratic leaders (35%), while Republican leaders in Congress received the lowest mark on record for either party (24%). Americans have more confidence in business leaders and state governors than federal political leaders.

Americans' confidence in economic leaders

Gallup's current Economic Confidence Index score (-17) is virtually the same as where it was one year ago (-16), but Americans have less confidence in their elected officials to deal with the economy than they did a year ago. The depressed confidence in political leaders may be a lingering effect of October's federal government shutdown.

This is the first time President Obama's rating has fallen below the 50% mark on the question of Americans' confidence in his ability to recommend the right thing for the economy. Apart from his first honeymoon year in office when he garnered 71% confidence on this question, the president has had the confidence of between 50% and 57% of the American people when it comes to his economic dealings.

These findings are from Gallup's annual Economy and Personal Finance survey conducted April 3-6, 2014. Gallup has asked this question each year since 2001 for the president, congressional leaders, and the U.S. Federal Reserve chair.

confidence in Obama on the economy

President Obama's current rating on the question took a 15-percentage-point dive from last year, and it is now the same as his current job approval score. Compared with his predecessor, Americans have the same degree of confidence now as they did in then-President George W. Bush during his sixth year in office (44%).

Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen (37%) and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (30%), both Obama appointees, stimulate less confidence among the American public currently than the president does. Both, however, are relatively new to their jobs, and Americans' lack of familiarity with them may keep their scores lower.

Confidence on Economic Issues Even More Dismal for Leaders in Congress

Americans have even lower confidence in congressional leaders of both parties than the president, as is typically the case. However, their confidence in congressional leaders on economic matters is the lowest Gallup has measured to date.

Democratic congressional leaders experienced a new low, at 35%, falling 13 points from last year. For Republicans, who took the brunt of the political fallout from the shutdown, only a quarter (24%) of Americans have confidence in their party's leaders in Congress, down from 39% in 2013.

confidence in congressional leaders on the economy, by party

Business Leaders, Governors Retain Higher Confidence on Economy

Leaders in business rank highest in Americans' confidence on economic recommendations (52%), slightly down from the 54% they received in both 2010 and 2011.

Americans' view state governors more confidently on economic issues (51%) than their federally elected counterparts in Washington, though less so than the finding of 58% in 2011 when Gallup last asked Americans to rate governors.

State governors may be rated higher because Americans generally express more trust in state government than in federal government. Americans may also see state governors, as well as business leaders, in less overtly political terms than federal political leaders.

Bottom Line

It has been six months since the federal government shutdown, and its aftermath still creates tremors throughout the collective American psyche.

Though confidence in the economy itself has recovered from the shutdown, confidence in the elected officials who strongly influence the economy seems to not have recovered. This is evident in the lack of change from last year's Economic Confidence Index reading versus the dramatic drop in confidence in elected leaders' economic recommendations.

While many election reporters expect 2014 to be a good midyear election year for the Republican Party, Gallup's data don't give that indication, as congressional Republicans received the lowest confidence score for either party on record for issues pertaining to the economy. But Democrats -- including the president himself -- saw their ratings drop as well. This reflects a national loss of confidence for elected officials across the board as all remember Congress' willingness to play political chicken with the U.S. economy.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 3-6, 2014, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,026 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, the margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

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 time zone within region. Landline and cellular 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 most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. 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.

View survey methodology, complete question responses, and trends.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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