Americans’ optimism about an economic recovery, which was already very fragile, has turned downward.
A new Gallup poll says that “Three in four Americans name some type of economic issue as the `most important problem’ facing the country today — the highest net mentions of the economy in two years.”
Most of the reasons for the deepened concern are predictable. Some are not. Americans see their place in the world, and the place of the US, eroding, and they know there is little they or the country can do about it.
The poll’s respondents are worried about high gas prices, an increase in other commodities-based products, unemployment which may not improve much for a year or two, the possibility of higher taxes, and a withdrawal of some of the benefits of Social Security and Medicare. There is no reason to think that the problems will not persist. There is every reason that the federal government, strapped by high deficits, will not rescue its citizens from their difficult problems.
All of these obvious and concrete problems will not ease the worries of most Americans. But, there is something beyond that. A weak economy means that America’s role in the global economy is lessened each day. The growing power of China is part of the reason. So is the rapid growth of other large developing nations. They have taken American service and manufacturing jobs. The momentum that used to belong to the world’s largest economy which had a remarkable consumer spending base and increasing prosperity for both businesses and individuals has faltered. The media says the US has begun to become a second-rate economy. Enough people agree with that to help create a malaise among many Americans.
The worry about the economy is not just about present trouble. It extends into the not-too-distant future.
Methodology: Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 5-8, 2011, with a random sample of 1,018 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
Douglas A. McIntyre