2 in 5 Americans feel less secure financially than a year ago

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NEW YORK – Holiday shopping is over and the New Year’s Eve plans are made. It’s also the time of year when people look back and look forward and, this year many are probably thinking more of the economic year that was and the one that will be. President Obama is also probably thinking ahead to the economic future and his handling of the economy. At the end of his second year in office, just three in ten Americans (30%) give him positive ratings on the job he is doing on the economy while seven in ten (70%) give him negative ratings.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,331 adults surveyed online between December 6 and 13, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

When asked to compare their financial situation to last year, two in five Americans (42%) feel less secure now while one-third (36%) feel just as secure and one in five (19%) say they now feel more secure. While this reflects the end of a troubling financial year, it also shows an improvement from what people felt last year at this time. One year ago, over half of Americans (56%) said they felt less secure about their financial situation when compared to the previous year.

Looking ahead, one-quarter of Americans (26%) say they expect the economy to get worse in the coming year while three in ten (29%) expect it to get better and 45% say it will stay the same. Last month, over one-third (34%) said they thought the economy would be getting better, 41% said it would stay the same and 25% believed it would get worse.

The job market

In looking at the job market, just over one in three Americans (13%) rate the job market in their region of the country as good while three in five (63%) rate it as bad and one-quarter (24%) say it is neither good nor bad. Looking ahead, one-quarter of U.S. adults (25%) say they expect the job market to be better over the next six months, one in five (22%) say it will be worse and over half (54%) believe it will remain the same.

2011 Financial Expectations

Looking to what people may be doing with regard to their finances in the coming year, half of Americans (49%) say they will cut back on their household spending. Two in five say they will pay down their level of debt (41%) and save more in the year ahead (40%). One in five U.S. adults say they will get rid of one or more credit cards (22%) and save more for retirement (22%) while 13% say they will undertake home improvements that increase the value of their home. Less than one in ten will invest in less risky investments (8%), refinance their mortgage (6%) or take out a home equity line of credit (2%). And, one in five Americans (18%) say they do not expect to do anything differently financially in 2011.

So What?

At the beginning of the year everyone always has the best intentions. Resolutions are made typically about health, diet and/or finances. But, as everyone knows, resolutions are also broken and if they last until the end of January, that’s a great thing. As the year goes on, it will be interesting to see if people are saving more, paying down their debt or cutting back on household spending.

TABLE 1

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S JOB RATING ON THE ECONOMY – TREND

“Now, turning to something different, how would you rate the overall job that President Barack Obama is doing on the economy?”

Base: All adults

2009

March
April
May
June
Aug
Sept
Nov
Dec

%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

POSITIVE (NET)
47
49
46
43
39
40
34
36

Excellent
13
13
10
3
9
7
6
6

Pretty good
34
36
36
34
31
33
27
30

NEGATIVE (NET)
53
51
54
57
61
60
66
64

Only fair
30
27
30
27
25
27
30
30

Poor
23
24
24
30
36
33
37
34

2010

Jan
March
April
May
June
Aug
Sept
Oct
Nov
Dec

%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

POSITIVE (NET)
31
32
33
36
32
32
29
27
31
30

Excellent
5
5
6
6
5
6
5
5
5
5

Pretty good
25
27
27
30
27
26
24
22
26
25

NEGATIVE (NET)
69
68
67
64
68
68
71
73
69
70

Only fair
31
30
31
29
32
29
31
33
30
34

Poor
39
37
36
34
37
39
40
39
39
36

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 2A

FINANCIAL SECURITY

“Compared to last year, how secure do you feel about your financial situation?”

Base: All adults

Total
Political Affiliation
Generation

Rep.
Dem.
Ind.
Echo

Boomers

(18-33)
Gen. X

(34-45)
Baby

Boomers

(46-64)
Matures

(65+)

%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

MORE SECURE (NET)
19
11
27
21
26
19
17
13

Much more secure
5
2
8
5
5
5
5
3

Somewhat more secure
14
10
19
16
21
14
11
10

Same as last year
36
35
39
34
36
36
38
32

LESS SECURE (NET)
42
52
31
45
33
42
44
55

Somewhat less secure
23
26
18
24
19
20
22
31

Much less secure
20
26
13
21
13
22
22
24

Not sure
2
2
2
1
6
2
1
*

Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding

Note: * indicates less than 0.5%

TABLE 2B

FINANCIAL SECURITY – TREND

“Compared to last year, how secure do you feel about your financial situation?”

Base: All adults

2008
2009
2010

%
%
%

MORE SECURE (NET)
21
12
19

Much more secure
4
3
5

Somewhat more secure
17
9
14

Same as last year
34
30
36

LESS SECURE (NET)
38
56
42

Somewhat less secure
24
33
23

Much less secure
14
23
20

Not sure
7
3
2

Note: Percentages may not add up to exactly 100% due to rounding

TABLE 3

2011 FINANCIAL EXPECTATIONS

“Which of the following do you expect to do in 2011* in regards to your finances?”

Base: All adults

2009
2010
Generation

Echo

Boomers

(18-33)
Gen. X

(34-45)
Baby

Boomers

(46-64)
Matures

(65+)

%
%
%
%
%
%

Cut back on my household spending
55
49
41
49
56
47

Pay down my level of debt
45
41
32
50
48
31

Save more in the year ahead
42
40
51
42
35
31

Get rid of one or more credit cards
24
22
13
23
29
24

Save more for retirement
21
22
18
26
29
10

Undertake home improvements that increase the
value of my home
14
13
12
11
12
17

Invest in less risky investments
9
8
5
6
9
12

Refinance my mortgage
5
6
4
8
9
4

Take out a home equity line of credit
2
2
3
2
1
1

Other
6
6
9
6
4
4

I don’t expect to do anything different financially in 2011*
16
18
23
16
14
21

Note: Multiple response question; In 2009 this question asked about financial activity for 2010

TABLE 4

EXPECTATIONS FOR THE ECONOMY IN THE COMING YEAR – TREND

“In the coming year, do you expect the economy to…?”

Base: All adults

2009
2010

April
May
Aug
Sept
Oct
May
June
Aug
Sept
Oct
Nov
Dec

%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Improve
39
38
46
40
34
38
30
29
28
30
34
29

Stay the same
35
35
32
36
37
34
42
39
40
40
41
45

Get worse
26
27
22
24
29
28
28
32
32
30
25
26

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 5A

RATING OF CURRENT JOB MARKET – TREND

“How would you rate the current job market of your region of the nation?”

Base: All adults

2008
2009

June
July
Jan
April
June
Aug
Sept
Oct
Nov
Dec

%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

GOOD (NET)
28
30
6
12
9
8
10
10
8
9

Neither good nor bad
18
19
18
20
19
21
22
20
18
19

BAD (NET)
53
51
76
68
72
71
68
70
73
72

2010

Jan
Mar.
April
May
June
Aug
Sept
Oct
Nov
Dec

%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

GOOD (NET)
10
8
10
12
10
12
10
13
11
13

Neither good nor bad
20
18
21
20
25
22
21
21
23
24

BAD (NET)
70
73
70
68
66
66
69
66
66
63

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 5B

RATING OF CURRENT JOB MARKET IN YOUR REGION – BY REGION

“How would you rate the current job market of your region of the nation?”

Base: All adults

Total
Region

East
Midwest
South
West

%
%
%
%
%

GOOD (NET)
13
14
9
16
10

Very good
2
4
*
2
2

Somewhat good
11
10
9
14
8

Neither good nor bad
24
32
21
22
22

BAD (NET)
63
54
70
62
68

Somewhat bad
38
31
45
38
39

Very bad
25
23
25
24
29

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding; * indicates less than 0.5%

TABLE 6

EXPECTATIONS FOR JOB MARKET IN SIX MONTHS – TREND

“How do you think that the job market in your region of the nation will change over the next 6 months?”

Base: All adults

Jan.

2009
April

2009
June

2009
August

2009
June

2010
Aug

2010
Sept

2010
Oct

2010
Nov

2010
Dec

2010

%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

BETTER (NET)
15
23
21
28
26
23
21
23
30
25

Will be much better
1
3
2
2
1
2
2
3
2
2

Will be somewhat better
14
20
19
26
25
21
19
20
28
23

Will remain the same
36
42
47
47
53
49
53
53
50
54

WORSE (NET)
49
36
32
25
21
27
26
24
21
22

Will be somewhat worse
36
29
24
19
15
22
20
18
15
16

Will be much worse
14
7
8
6
6
5
6
6
6
6

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding