- A new Gallup poll finds that Americans are not optimistic about the economy, with optimism at an all-time low.
- Americans were asked if they think life will be better for the next generation, and most don’t.
- Republicans especially had a decline in optimism, as did those with higher incomes.
If you feel like the vibes are off, you’re not alone.
Since 1996, the New York Times, CBS News and Gallup have polled Americans on how optimistic they are about the economic circumstances of the next generation. The latest Gallup poll finds optimism near record lows in 2022 and down 18 points from 2019, the last time Americans were polled.
In a survey of 812 adults from September 1 to 16, Gallup asked: “In America, every generation has tried to have a better life than their parents, with a better standard of living, better homes, better education, etc. How do you think today’s youth are likely to have a better life than their parents, very likely, somewhat likely, somewhat unlikely, or very unlikely?
The majority of respondents said it was somewhat or very unlikely: 57% overall. Only 13% said it was very likely and 29% said it was somewhat likely. That’s technically the lowest since polling firms began asking this question in 1996, though it’s within two points of the 2011 measure, Gallup senior editor Megan Brenan told Insider.
“It’s a bit of a bleak picture amid this high inflation and challenging period that we’re coming out of economically,” Brenan said.
Americans who feel bad are not new. The recovery from the coronavirus-induced recession has been full of tumultuous twists and turns, leading to a “vibecession” at the end of the summer, in which Americans have told pollsters they see the economy as dismal despite strong growth in employment and consumption. .
Making matters worse is the “sugar crash” the economy is about to face, as a set of federal programs that have propped up Americans financially (economic boosts like rising unemployment, low interest rates, and direct checks) eventually they fade completely. Right now, voters are more worried about the economy, something that could spell trouble for Democrats heading into the midterm elections.
Republicans fueled the dip in optimism, with just a third saying they think the next generation will do better. But Democrats, most of whom believe things will get better, still saw their optimism at an all-time low.
“Republicans, specifically on this measure, their tendency to say that the next generation is likely to have a better chance than their parents has really come down to who is in the White House,” Brenan. “For Democrats, it has been less, much less so.”
In fact, confidence in the economic future is higher among people with lower incomes, according to the Gallup poll. Among households with an annual income of less than $40,000, most respondents are optimistic. “You would assume that’s because they realize they’re struggling and they’re hopeful that the next generation can top them,” Brenan said of the optimism among the low-income.
Brenan said the income divide could also be a partisan effect, as higher-income Americans may be more Republican leaning.
The low optimism among the wealthiest respondents runs counter to how higher-income Americans are faring economically. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, American families in the top 10% of earners held 72% of the country’s wealth in 2019. Meanwhile, the bottom half of families owned just 2% of all the wealth of the country as a whole. It’s no secret that the wealthiest Americans saw their fortunes soar during the pandemic.
Optimism has traditionally fallen during times of economic struggle, when unemployment and inflation are high and the country is in recession. Right now, only one of them seems to be happening, as inflation remains uncomfortably high and unemployment hovers near record lows, yet another sign that the post-vaccine economy and American sentiment is yet to settle. have resolved.
“An improvement in the economy is probably the only thing that will really change things in a move like this,” Brenan said.