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Gallup Poll: Half in US Say They Are Worse Off Than a Year Ago, Worst Rating in 3 Decades

Gallup Poll: Half in US Say They Are Worse Off Than a Year Ago, Highest Since 2009

By: Ingólfur Stefánsson

February 9, 2023 (Updated): Half of U.S. adults say they are worse off financially now than they were a year ago, according to a report based on a national survey conducted by Gallup in which U.S. adults were asked about their financial situation.

The same report states that 35 percent of U.S. adults say they are better off than they were a year ago, while 15 percent say they are in the same financial situation. Gallup first asked this question in 1976, and since then it has been rare for half or more of Americans to say they are worse off. The only other times this occurred was during the Great Recession era of 2008–09.

In the same survey conducted in 2021 and 2022, U.S. adults were more evenly divided. In last year’s survey, 41 percent of respondents reported being better off and 41 percent reported being worse off. In 2020, before the pandemic hit, 59 percent of U.S. adults said they were better off than the year before, which is one of Gallup’s highest reading, along with a 58 percent reading in 1999.

Lower-Income Individuals Bear Brunt of Downturn

The report highlights the disparities in financial well-being between different demographic groups, with lower-income individuals being the most likely to say they are worse off financially now than a year ago. For lower-income groups, a majority of respondents (61 percent) reported that their financial situation had worsened over the past year, while only 26 percent reported that it had improved. Middle- and upper-income Americans were also more likely to report being worse off than better off, though the gap was not as large as it was among the lower-income group.

Source: Gallup & InteractivePolls

In addition, there is a notable political bias in how individuals assess their personal finances, with Republicans now more likely to report being worse off than Democrats. On the other hand, a larger number of Democrats reported being better off than worse off. According to Gallup, this trend is typical in relation to the political party of the sitting president. Democrats tend to view their finances more positively when a Democrat is in the White House, while the reverse is true during Republican presidential administrations.

Americans are optimistic about their financial future despite these current economic challenges, with 60 percent expecting to be better off in the next year and 28 percent predicting to be worse off. This positive outlook is in line with past trends, as Americans have been optimistic about their financial future in all such Gallup surveys since 1977. The current outlook is still less positive than in previous years, such as the record-high 74 percent “better off” reading in January 2020.

The results are based on a poll conducted by Gallup in the beginning of 2023 from Jan. 2 to Jan. 22. They follow a year of high inflation, rising interest rates, and declining stock values, which, according to the report, is likely to have taken its toll on the financial situation for many U.S. adults, especially in their retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s.

“Still, Americans remain optimistic about the year ahead for their financial situations, which they typically are, almost regardless of recent economic conditions. If this optimism holds and consumers act accordingly, it may help to minimize or avert an economic recession,“ the report states.


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