Looking back as well as forward
Compared to last year, Americans feel slightly more secure about their financial situation. One-quarter (23%) say they feel more secure now, 37% say they feel the same as last year and just under two in five (38%) feel less secure about their financial situation. Last year, when compared to the previous year, less than one in five (19%) felt more secure and over two in five (42%) felt less secure.
Looking ahead, over one-quarter of Americans (27%) say they expect their own household finances to be better in the next six months and the same number (27%) expect them to be worse while 46% say they will be the same. In October, 22% of U.S. adults thought their finances would be better, half (49%) thought they would be the same and 29% felt they would be worse.
One of the stories about this financial crisis has been about savings. Some say people — even those who may not have been laid off — have been building nest eggs to prepare for the worst. But, that may not be true. While one-quarter of Americans (25%) say they are saving more than they were in 2008 before the downturn in the economy, one-third (35%) are saving the same amount and two in five (40%) are saving less than they were. When compared to one year ago, one in five (21%) are saving more, two in five (42%) are saving the same amount and 37% are saving less. If the economy is getting better, maybe the savings are happening more recently? Well, compared to three months ago, over half of Americans (53%) are saving the same amount, 16% are saving more and three in ten (31%) are saving less.
The job market
The one area where optimism seems to not have returned is the job market. Almost two-thirds of Americans (65%) say the current job market in their region of the country is bad, up from 63% who said this in December. One in five (22%) say it is neither good nor bad and 13% say it is good; the same number of Americans who said it was good in December. The Midwest region seems to be in the worst shape as just 9% of Midwesterners say the job market in their region is good while 72% say it is bad. Easterners seem to be better off as almost one in five of them (18%) say the job market in their region is good and three in five (61%) say it is bad.
But there is a glimmer of hope. Three in ten Americans (31%) say they believe the job market in their region will be better in six months while half (51%) say it will stay the same and 18% say it will be worse. In December, one-quarter of U.S. adults (25%) said the job market would be better in six months while 22% believed it would be worse.
This is the one area where President Obama needs the optimism to hold. If current feelings on economic conditions continue to improve, he will finally be able to move on to the other things on his agenda. If, however, they take a step backwards, not only will the rest of his agenda become in jeopardy, so will his re-election chances.