When the Good News Is ‘Dismal’

After deteriorating since early January, has Americans’ economic outlook stabilized? In an analysis of its daily tracking data so far this year, Gallup concludes that it has, although “stabilized” might in this case be a polite way of saying “hit bottom.” Or, as Gallup remarks, opinion has stabilized at “very dismal levels.”

The proportion of Americans rating the economy as “poor” jumped from 28 percent at the beginning of the year to 39 percent at the beginning of March, then rose at a slower pace, to 43 percent, by the beginning of April. But it hasn’t risen further since then. There has been a similar pattern on the question of whether economic conditions are getting better or worse.

Combining all the data to yield three “mood groups” — those with “positive” views, those with “negative” views and those with “mixed” views — Gallup finds the “negative” group expanded from 65 percent to 77 percent of the population in the first three months of the year. But it has grown by just a single percentage point since then.

Of course, there wasn’t much room for growth. Gallup notes that negative views of the economy have become the norm even in high-income households. And men, who tend to be more cheerful on such matters, are just marginally less glum than women.

Wrapping up on a suitably gloomy note, Gallup points out that “As bad as the current ratings are, there is still opportunity for them to get worse” if the 20 percent of Americans who think things aren’t so bad end up joining the majority who believe things are indeed so bad.