Outlook for the Country and the Economy is Less Negative

Views of the economy are stabilizing and the public is becoming less pessimistic about the trajectory of the economy and the country overall.

September 22, 2020

Americans continue to regard the country’s economy as poor, but they are somewhat less likely than in recent months to expect things to deteriorate. In addition, while the public continues to regard the country as headed in the wrong direction, they are also less pessimistic about the prospects for the country in the next year.

Forty percent of the public call the national economy good and 60% say it is poor. While still negative and considerably down from the positive numbers seen in January before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, these numbers are significantly better than low points in April and May.

Forty-three percent think the economy will improve in the next year, which is just about the same as found in the AP-NORC survey taken in July. But fewer expect things to get worse.  And the drop is bipartisan. The number of Democrats who expect the economy to get worse decreased from 47% to 39%.  Fourteen percent of Republicans think the national economy will decline, down from 21% in July. 

A large majority (72%) of Americans say things in the country are heading in the wrong direction, but the number who expect things to deteriorate has dipped compared with July.  Like with the economy, both Democrats and Republicans are less pessimistic. Thirty-six percent of Democrats expect things in the country to get worse in the next year, down from 50% in July.  The number of Republicans who think things will get worse dropped from 28% to 18%.

While there is slight improvement in the public’s assessment of the national economy, their view of their own financial situations has remained fairly steady. Sixty-five percent say the financial situation of their household is good and 87% say it will either improve or remain the same over the next year.

Republicans and Democrats have sharply divergent views of the condition of the economy, but partisan differences decrease when it comes to personal finances.

The public’s assessment of their own financial circumstances has been fairly stable over the months of the pandemic, but 53% say COVID-19 has affected their household’s paychecks, whether by a layoff, reduced salary, or a cut in hours. Forty-four percent of those who say they or someone in their household has been laid off do not expect to be able to return to the same job.

The nationwide poll was conducted September 11-14, 2020 using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,108 adults. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4.0 percentage points.

Suggested Citation: AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.  (September, 2020).“Outlook for the Country and the Economy is Less Negative.” [https://apnorc.org/projects/outlook-for-the-country-and-the-economy-is-less-negative/]

Expert Contacts

Lisa M. Blumerman

Senior Vice President
Economics, Justice, and Society
(301) 634-9352

Jennifer Benz

Deputy Director
Public Affairs and Media Research
(617) 316-3702