Economy: Pew Research Center Key Data Points
Strengthening the nation’s economy and improving the job situation have remained the public’s two top priorities for the White House and Congress. Reducing the budget deficit has moved significantly higher on the public’s agenda since President Obama first took office.
Strengthening the economy has long topped the list of the public’s priorities, but that number moved above the 80% mark following the financial meltdown of 2008 and now stands at 86%. More than eight-in-ten Democrats, Republicans and independents agree it is the most pressing issue. For the public overall, improving the job situation continues to rank second at 79%, a number that also rose as the Great Recession unfolded.
The most dramatic change in recent years has been the emphasis on reducing the deficit: it ranked in ninth place in 2009 when 53% said it should be the top priority, and now has risen to third place, at 72%. While Democrats and independents both put the deficit in third place in order of importance, Republicans consider it a greater priority than improving the jobs situation. (See our interactive chart, Twelve Years of the Public’s Top Priorities).
Five years after the 2008 financial crisis, views of the national economy still remain negative.
While perceptions of the economy are negative, they are much less so than during the depths of the economic recession, according to a September survey. Still, only 19% rate the economy as excellent or good. By contrast, about a third (32%) rate the economy as poor and roughly half (48%) say economic conditions are only fair.
The recession’s impact can still be clearly seen in how people describe their personal financial situation.
Overall, 33% say the recession had a major impact on them and their finances have not yet recovered, 28% say it had a major impact on them but their finances have mostly recovered, while 37% say the recession did not have a major impact on their own personal financial situation, according to a September survey.
The first two years of the recovery have been an uneven one, with the mean net wealth for the upper 7% of households increasing while the lower 93% declined.
From 2009 to 2011, the mean net worth of households in the upper 7% of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28%, while the mean net worth of households in the lower 93% dropped by 4%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data. These wide variances were driven by the fact that the stock and bond market rallied during the 2009 to 2011 period while the housing market remained flat. That benefited households with high net worth whose wealth is more concentrated in financial holdings compared to the less-affluent whose wealth is more concentrated in their homes.
Just a third of Americans see the nation’s economic system as more secure than it was in 2008.
The belief that the U.S. economic system is no more secure today than it was before the financial crisis is widely shared across demographic groups, according to a September survey. There are partisan differences, however, with Democrats more likely than Republicans or independents to say that the system is more secure.
While many Americans say their state is experiencing budget problems, there is a modest improvement from two years ago.
Ratings of state economic conditions are more positive than national economic ratings, according to our March survey. Just 16% describe national economic conditions as excellent or good; this compares with 30% who describe the economy of the state they live in as excellent or good in the current survey.
Read more Pew Research findings on Economic Policy.
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