It’s Bad, But Is It the Worst?

Granted, the economy isn’t in great shape these days. But is it in “the worst shape you’ve ever experienced in your lifetime?” In a BIGresearch poll that posed this question, 62 percent of adults said it is indeed the worst they’ve ever endured.

It’s easy to see why the poll’s 18-34-year-olds would say so (as 66 percent did), since few had even approached adulthood when the last recession came and went. But the same opinion was held by 63 percent of the 35-54-year-olds and 58 percent of those age 55-plus.

Since the actual data on unemployment and inflation (the components of the famous “misery index”) are disturbing but scarcely apocalyptic so far, the poll’s findings probably say as much about Americans’ current threshold for economic pain as about the economy itself. The responses are also a tribute to the power high gasoline prices have to make consumers miserable en masse. After all, those affect the vast majority of adults. Unemployment, by contrast, still affects a minority of households, even though it has been rising.

Polls have shown Democrats decrying the state of the economy throughout this decade, and the current survey is no exception. But the overall “worst ever” number is as high as it is partly because the 77 percent of Democrats holding that view are joined by 50 percent of Republicans.