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Americans' Weak Economic Ratings Slip Further in September

Americans' Weak Economic Ratings Slip Further in September

Story Highlights

  • Percentage rating economy as “poor” rises six percentage points in September
  • Pessimism about economy’s direction also worsens
  • Mentions of economic concerns as nation’s top problem tick up to 34%

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans’ already negative assessments of the U.S. economy have become slightly worse in September, both in their perception of current economic conditions and their outlook for the economy’s direction.

In this month’s update, 20% of U.S. adults say economic conditions are “excellent” or “good,” while 32% call them “only fair” and 48% “poor.” The overall positive rating is down slightly from 23% in August, while the poor rating is up from 42% and is the highest Gallup has seen in a year.


Asked about the economy’s direction, nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%) say conditions are getting worse, while 24% say they’re improving.

Current pessimism about the economy outpaces the 66% to 67% saying the economy was getting worse over the summer months, while it’s on par with the readings last spring.


The latest results are from a Sept. 1-23 Gallup poll, conducted as the risk of a U.S. government shutdown was intensifying with the approach of the Sept. 30 deadline to pass bills to fund federal agency programs for the new fiscal year.

Gallup combines Americans’ ratings into an index representing net optimism about the economy. The index has a theoretical maximum of +100 if all Americans think the economy is “excellent” or “good” and improving, and a theoretical minimum of -100 if all believe the economy is “only fair” or “poor” and getting worse.

The Economic Confidence Index currently stands at -39, nine points below its August reading. The index has been negative every month since the start of the pandemic in 2020, except for two readings in early 2021. It was substantially more negative in mid-2022 when high inflation, including record-high gas prices, distressed consumers. Although much reduced today, ongoing inflation has likely contributed to the continuation of negative ECI scores for what is now the 26th straight month.

The only other period of such sustained negativity about the economy since Gallup began measuring this index monthly in 2000 was recorded in the years during and in the few years after the 2007-2009 recession.


Economic Concerns Tick Up

Americans’ harsher view of the economy this month is also evident in their slightly increased focus on economic issues when asked to name the most important problem facing the country. The percentage naming any aspect of the economy as the chief problem has edged up to 34% from 31% in August.

Most of the economic concerns that Americans mention relate to the economy in general (16%) or inflation specifically (9%). Three percent of Americans each name the federal budget deficit and unemployment, while fewer cite the wealth gap, gas prices, taxes, and recession fears.

Still, far more Americans -- 67% in total -- continue to name one or more non-economic issues as the nation’s top problem. This encompasses a variety of domestic and international matters but is led this month, as has typically been the case, by concerns about government leadership (18%) and immigration (13%). While mentions of government have fallen four points since August, mentions of immigration have increased by the same amount. The percentages of Americans citing all other issues are statistically unchanged.


Satisfaction With U.S. Direction Remains Scarce

Rising concern about the economy in September hasn’t deepened Americans’ negative outlook of the country as a whole, as a steady eight in 10 continue to say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States, while just 20% are satisfied.


Bottom Line

Americans’ subpar economic ratings have been the norm since the pandemic, and that continues today, but their evaluations have turned slightly worse in September after improving a bit over the summer.

At the same time, Americans’ overall satisfaction with the country hasn’t changed -- likely because at 20%, it’s already as low as it can get without a major economic or political event that sparks bipartisan concern. Historically, such episodes have included the global economic crisis in 2008, the debt ceiling showdown in 2011, the government shutdown in 2013, and the killing of George Floyd and surrounding events in 2020. It remains to be seen if a government shutdown in October leads to a similar downturn in satisfaction.

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