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Economic Pessimism Persists, With Inflation Still Key Concern

Economic Pessimism Persists, With Inflation Still Key Concern

Story Highlights

  • More than four in five Americans rate the economy as poor or only fair
  • Most also think conditions are getting worse
  • Government still nation’s top problem; inflation leads economic concerns

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The American public continues to rate the U.S. economy in mostly negative terms in March, with 83% describing current economic conditions as “only fair” or “poor.” Just 16% consider them “excellent” or “good.” Furthermore, 72% think conditions are getting worse, while 23% say they are improving.

These consumer views of the nation’s economy round out a highly stable first quarter, with the March results closely matching what Gallup found in January and February.


Gallup measures Americans’ views of the economy in its monthly nationally representative telephone polls that comprise the Gallup Poll Social Series. The latest survey was conducted March 1-23.

Economic Confidence Still Deeply Negative

Gallup combines Americans’ rating of current economic conditions with their perception of the economy’s direction to create its Economic Confidence Index. This month’s index score is -38, which is the average of Americans’ net-positive rating of current conditions (the percentage rating the economy as excellent or good minus the percentage rating it poor) and their net-positive outlook score (the percentage saying the economy is getting better minus the percentage saying it is getting worse).

The index has a theoretical range of +100 (if all respondents rate the economy as excellent or good and say it’s improving) to -100 (if all rate it as poor and say it’s getting worse). In practice, the highest the index has been since Gallup began tracking the component questions in 1992 was +56 in January 2000, and the lowest was -72 in October 2008.

Since November 2022, the index has varied narrowly between -36 and -39, reflecting great stability in the two questions over this period. This range is less negative than was recorded at points last summer when the index sank below -50, but it is still in the deeply negative zone seen since late 2021. It was then that inflation climbed to over 6% for the first time in three decades, causing consumers much financial hardship.

Before that, Americans’ economic confidence was stronger, ranging from -7 to +1 in the spring and early summer of 2021 as the country was getting somewhat back to normal following the initial rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. However, it has not been robustly positive since the three years leading up to the pandemic, from 2017 through early 2020, when it was routinely over +20.


Perceptions of Most Important Problem Highly Dispersed

With inflation hovering around 6%, the issue continues to be Americans’ biggest specific economic concern; 12% currently name it as the most important problem facing the country. That’s below the recent peak of 20% citing it as the most important problem in October 2022, when the inflation rate was nearly 8%, but still among the highest percentages naming the issue in recent decades.


Twelve percent of Americans also cite the economy in general as the top problem, while 1% mention unemployment and 1% wages. Altogether, a third of Americans mention some aspect of the nation’s economy or government finances as the leading concern.

Still, twice as many Americans (67%) cite a non-economic issue as the nation’s leading problem, with the most common set of responses having to do with various aspects of government or leadership, mentioned by 20%. Eleven percent mention immigration, while all other issues are cited by less than 5%.

Included in the list of issues receiving less than 5% of mentions are unifying the country, crime, race relations or racism, abortion, education, taxes, guns, U.S. relations with China, U.S. relations with Russia, and the media, among others. Although not widely cited, these issues could still be significant concerns to those respondents naming them with profound implications for how they view politics, their own lives or the country more generally.


U.S. Satisfaction in Short Supply

With their economic confidence still deeply negative and top-of-mind concerns about government, inflation and immigration relatively high, Americans’ satisfaction with the direction of the country remains scarce. Just 19% are satisfied this month, while 80% are dissatisfied. Current satisfaction matches the average recorded since the start of last year, during which time satisfaction has ranged from 13% to 24%.

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