Last week President Biden insisted that "more Americans feel financially comfortable" since he took office.
Yet, according to a new poll, 83% of Americans are pessimistic about the US economy - describing it as "poor or not so good," while 35% say they aren't satisfied with their financial situation - the highest level of dissatisfaction in the 50 years since the Wall Street Journal-NORC (University of Chicago) poll began.
The survey found Americans in a sour mood and registering some of the highest levels of economic dissatisfaction in years. The pessimism extended beyond the current economy to include doubts about the nation’s political system, its role as a global leader and its ability to help most people achieve the American dream. -WSJ
The Journal frames sentiment as "deeply pessimistic," and says Americans view the nation as sharply divided over its most important values.
Only 27% of the 1,071 adults polled say they have a good chance of improving their standard of living - a 20% drop from last year, while 46% said they don't.
Meanwhile, 38% said their financial situation had gotten worse in the past few years - marking the second time since the 2007-2009 recession that more than 30% of respondents said their finances were worse off, according to 50 years of data.
Some 60% said they were pessimistic about the ability for most people to achieve the American dream.
"The promise was this was a place where what you were born into did not determine who you could be. But I think we’ve failed deeply at that," said Julie Olsen Edwards, an 83-year-old Soquel, Calif., retired community college teacher. "I find myself choking up saying it."
What's driving the results? Inflation, of course.
The survey results show that high inflation in particular is driving the dim economic outlook, said Jennifer Benz, vice president of public affairs and media research at NORC. Inflation is running at close to its fastest pace in four decades, at an 8.3% annual rate in April, one of several factors weighing on consumers. Households are digging into savings to support their spending, the Commerce Department has said, and the S&P 500 nearly closed in bear territory recently. -WSJ
The poll does have a bright spot - namely the labor market, with the unemployment rate close to a multi-decade low at 3.6%. Around 2/3 of those polled said it would be 'somewhat or very easy' to find a new job with around the same income and benefits - the highest % since 1977.
That said, the overall results of the poll suggest that Democrats 'face a dispirited electorate heading into November's elections,' as respondents' despondent view of things suggests that 'a connective tissue of pessimism underlies Americans' economic and social attitudes."
According to the poll, 86% said that Americans are 'greatly divided' when it comes to key values, while over half said they expect the divisions to worsen over the next five years.
"I'm angry," said Robert Benda, a 69-year-old retired telecommunications worker who lives in Berthoud, Colo., who says freedom is the most important American value, which Democrats controlling Washington are trying to take away. "Our government is doing what’s right for their special-interest groups, and everybody else be damned."