American despond

By Felix Salmon
September 10, 2010
This is the most depressing poll you're likely to see this electoral season, and it's not even political. StrategyOne decided that ordinary Americans can't possibly be worse economic forecasters than economists, so they asked whether we're going to have a double dip. 65% said yes, we are. And the rest of the answers are entirely consistent with that: 48% of Americans think that our best days are behind us. 71% think that "America is fundamentally broken and not working". 79% are planning to spend less money at Christmas this year than they did last year:

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This is the most depressing poll you’re likely to see this electoral season, and it’s not even political. StrategyOne decided that ordinary Americans can’t possibly be worse economic forecasters than economists, so they asked whether we’re going to have a double dip. 65 percent said yes, we are. And the rest of the answers are entirely consistent with that: 48 percent of Americans think that our best days are behind us. 71 percent think that “America is fundamentally broken and not working”. 79 percent are planning to spend less money at Christmas this year than they did last year:

“The American public — characteristically optimistic and resilient — is looking around and seeing more and more dark storm clouds approaching on the horizon,” said Bradley Honan, senior vice president of StrategyOne. “Not only has confidence in the economy been severely undermined, there are now real, significant doubts emerging about our country.”

When such dark forecasts are so widely held, of course, they become self-fulfilling. I see only two grounds for hope: either the poll is fundamentally flawed in its design (I have no reason to believe that it is, but it would be great to see someone else trying to replicate these results); or else Americans might actually behave in a relatively high-consuming and optimistic manner, even if they don’t actually think that way when asked.

In any case, it would be nice to see the bulls out there come up with some good explanation of how their forecasts are consistent with these survey results. Because on the strength of these answers, the double dip is coming. And it’s going to be a nasty one, too: 77 percent of Americans think it’s going to be at least as bad as the current recession.

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