For months, economists have been in suspense to see whether the broad decline in house prices will trigger a drop in consumer spending as people note the falling value of their chief asset. The findings of a nationwide Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll suggest those experts should keep their worries to themselves, lest they scare the many people who are blissfully unaware of any downward trend in house prices. Adults were asked whether they think house values in their own neighborhood will increase, decrease or remain the same six months from now. While a majority expect prices to stay the same (57 percent), respondents were almost twice as likely to expect an increase as a decrease (27 percent vs. 14 percent). Just 5 percent of all respondents said they anticipate a drop of more than 10 percent in housing prices in their neighborhood. Though the "increase" vote is significantly lower than it was in a similar poll a year ago (when it stood at 38 percent), the "decrease" tally has barely budged since then (from 13 percent).
The same poll took a broader look at Americans' sense of the national economy and of their personal finances. While just 11 percent said the economy is doing "very well," another 57 percent said it's doing "fairly well." Many fewer said the economy is doing "fairly badly" (18 percent) or "very badly" (13 percent). Looking ahead to the next six months, 61 percent said they think the economy will be about the same, while 19 percent expect it to be better and 16 percent think it'll be worse. As to their own finances, a majority of respondents characterized them as either "very secure" (15 percent) or "fairly secure" (56 percent). Sixteen percent said their financial situation is "fairly shaky" and 12 percent "very shaky." Women were slightly less likely than men to describe their finances in positive terms, and twice as likely (16 percent vs. 8 percent) to classify them as "very shaky."