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Americans Increasingly Expect Economic Recession

Americans Increasingly Expect Economic Recession

Story Highlights

  • 61% say economic recession very likely
  • 18% believe household very likely to face financial struggles
  • 6% of U.S. stockholders have taken money out of stock market

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a little less than two weeks, the percentage of Americans who believe an economic recession is very likely to occur in the U.S. because of the COVID-19 virus has increased from 38% to 61%.

Line graph. Since mid-March, there has been a 23-point increase in the percentage of Americans expecting a U.S. recession.

Another 31% currently believe a recession is somewhat likely to occur, while just 8% do not think it will happen.

The results are based on Gallup's tracking of U.S. attitudes about the coronavirus situation. The polling is being conducted using online surveys with members of the Gallup Panel.

Since March 13-16, when Gallup's COVID-19 tracking survey began, increasing proportions of Americans in all income and political party groups have said a recession is very likely to occur.

Democrats were originally more likely than Republicans to believe this, and they remain that way. In fact, barely more than one in three Republicans, versus about eight in 10 Democrats, say an economic recession is very likely. Another 46% of Republicans and 15% of Democrats say it is somewhat likely.

Expectations for an economic recession are generally similar by income, as they have been in recent weeks.

Changes in Likelihood of an Economic Recession, by Political Party and Annual Household Income
Figures are the percentage who think an economic recession is very likely to occur because of the coronavirus situation
Mar 13-16 Mar 17-19 Mar 20-22
% % %
Party identification
Democrats 56 72 83
Independents 38 54 60
Republicans 16 29 35
Annual household income
Less than $36,000 39 50 60
$36,000-<$90,000 33 46 57
$90,000 or more 43 57 69
Gallup, 2020

More Also See Possibility of Financial Struggles For Household

Americans are less pessimistic about the potential effects of the novel coronavirus on their own financial situation. Eighteen percent of U.S. adults say it is very likely that their household will have "major financial struggles" because of the coronavirus. Another 34% say it is somewhat likely to happen, while 39% believe it is not too likely and 9% not likely at all.

The percentage of Americans saying their financial situation is very likely to suffer is up from 10% in March 13-16 polling. The combined percentage who think the coronavirus is either very or somewhat likely to harm their finances has increased from 40% to 52% in the same time frame.

Predictions of financial struggles are higher among those residing in lower-income households than among those in middle- or upper-income households. Nearly three in 10 of those in lower-income households say it is very likely that their household will experience major financial struggles because of the coronavirus, compared with about one-seventh of those in middle- and upper-income households.

Americans in all income groups are more likely now than in March 13-16 polling to expect their financial situation to be harmed, although most of that increase occurred by March 17-19 and has since leveled off.

Americans' Expectations That COVID-19 Situation Will Harm Personal Financial Situation, by Annual Household Income
How likely do you think it is that the coronavirus will cause major financial struggles for your household?
March 13-16 March 17-19 March 20-22
% % %
Less than $36,000
Very likely 19 30 29
Somewhat likely 32 32 34
Not too likely 34 31 32
Not likely at all 15 7 4
Very likely 9 14 14
Somewhat likely 33 35 32
Not too likely 45 36 44
Not likely at all 13 15 10
$90,000 or more
Very likely 6 12 13
Somewhat likely 28 37 35
Not too likely 48 39 43
Not likely at all 18 11 9
Gallup, 2020

Most Stock Owners Keeping Their Investments

One of the immediate economic effects of the COVID-19 situation in the U.S. was the sharp decline in the U.S. stock market. Since then, stock values have been volatile, and they remain much lower than before the pandemic.

Six percent of Americans who have money invested in stocks say they have taken money out of the stock market, and another 12% say they are considering doing so. That leaves 82% who are not considering reducing their stock market investments.

To the extent Americans have taken money out of the stock market during the coronavirus situation, they apparently have not taken all of their money out. A separate Gallup telephone survey, conducted March 13-22, finds 55% of Americans indicating they own any amount of stock. This is the same rate of stock ownership that Gallup measured about a year ago.

Stock ownership remains down from before the Great Recession -- 62% owned stock in 2007 -- suggesting a smaller proportion of Americans have been harmed by this latest plunge in stock prices than by the one that occurred in response to the 2008 financial crisis.


Widespread business closures and other efforts designed to halt the spread of COVID-19 have most economists predicting a significant economic recession. Americans tend to agree, with more than nine in 10 saying a recession is at least somewhat likely, including six in 10 who say it is very likely to occur. Democrats are largely convinced a recession is going to occur, while Republicans are more skeptical, presumably because of their trust in the leadership of President Donald Trump. The longer the coronavirus pandemic disrupts normal human work and social interactions in the U.S., the greater the harm it will do to the economy and Americans' own finances. These unknowns will ultimately go a long way toward determining whether voters reelect the president this fall.

Learn more about how the Gallup Panel works.

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