Poll: 69 Percent of Americans Say They Expect Finances to Improve This Year

Specialist Michael Pistillo works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Stocks are closing higher on Wall Street, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average to its first close above 26,000 points. RICHARD DREW, AP

Americans are feeling more positive about their financial circumstances than they have in 16 years, a Gallup poll shows:

The 69 percent saying they expect to be better off is only two percentage points below the all-time high of 71%, recorded in March 1998 at a time when the nation’s economic boom was producing strong economic growth combined with the lowest inflation and unemployment rates in decades.

The poll also found a trend continuing, with people less positive about the past than the future.

Fifty percent say they are better off today than they were a year ago. That 50 percent still represents a post-recession milestone — the first time since 2007 that at least half of the public has said they are financially better off than a year ago.

That is a contrast to ten years ago when more than half of Americans — 54 percent — said they were worse off than the previous years, Gallup reported, noting that that was when the Great Recession was drawing to a close.

“Now, with unemployment below 1998 levels and the job market growing steadily, the number saying they are worse off than a year ago has dropped to 26 percent, the lowest level since October 2000,” Gallup reported.

This poll marks the 11th time in 109 of these surveys dating back to 1976 that at least half of Americans have said they were better off than in the year prior.

In every one of the 105 Gallup polls since 1977 that asked both questions, more Americans were optimistic about their future finances than said their current finances had improved versus a year prior. On average in those 105 polls, 56 percent have expected to be better off in the next year, while 39 percent have believed they were better off than they had been the previous year. For both questions, a substantial percentage of the public volunteered a response of “the same” — indicating either that their finances had not changed in the past year or that they did not expect them to change in the coming year.

Most major demographic groups joined the ranks of the optimistic who say their finances have improved, according to Gallup, with one exception. 

“By 37 percent to 3 percent, more Democrats say that compared with a year ago, they are worse off financially rather than better off.”

But, some Democratic say they are better off:

• Sixty-two percent of those under 30 say they are better off; 25 percent say worse off

• Forty-five percent of women say they are better off; 29 percent say worse off

• Forty-five percent of those with annual household incomes of less than $40,000 say better off, 35 percent were worse off

• Among liberals, 40 percent say better off, 31 percent worse off

Some 68 percent of Republicans, on the other hand, said they are better off, with only ten percent saying they are worse off.

“Economic conditions can take rapid turns, and lofty expectations can be dashed in the process,” Gallup reported. “But for now, it appears that most Americans believe, at least for their own financial situations, that 2019 will be a good year.”

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