A Majority of Americans – Across Party Lines – Feel the Country is on the Wrong Track

Adults are split on whether the economy will improve, stay the same, or get worse

05:00 PM EST Jan 12, 2017 Rating
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A Majority of Americans – Across Party Lines – Feel the Country is on the Wrong Track

NEW YORK, N.Y. – 2016 has come to a close and, both politically and otherwise, 2017 sees a lot of changes on the horizon for the American people. Thinking of the country as a whole, nearly seven in 10 Americans say that things in the country have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track (68%). Regardless of political party affiliation, a majority of Democrats (70%), Independents (71%) and Republicans (60%) feel this way. This sentiment is also particularly true among women (73% vs. 62% of men) and older Americans, ages 55+, compared to those 18-44 (65+, 73%; 55-64, 72%; 45-54, 69%; 35-44, 63%; and 18-34, 62%).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,192 U.S. adults surveyed online between January 9 and 11, 2017.

The economic outlook

Turning to a broad look at the economy, Americans are largely split on where things will go in the coming year. Over one third each say the economy will stay the same (37%) or improve (36%), while more than one in four are expecting it to get worse (27%).

Economic optimism is highest among men (40% vs. 32% of women) and higher income households ($100K+, 41%; $75K-$99.9K, 43%; $50K-$74.9K, 35%; less than $50K, 31%). Republicans are also significantly more likely than both Democrats and Independents to believe the economy will improve this year (56%, vs. 20% and 37%, respectively).

The future at home

Looking at a micro level – their own households – a slight majority of adults say they expect their household’s financial condition will remain the same in the first six months of 2017 (52%). One third, however, are optimistic that their financial situation will improve (36%), while just 12% say it will get worse. Generational differences are apparent as 70% of Matures expect their condition to remain the same while nearly half of Millennials expect things to get better (48%). Men are also more likely to expect improvements (38% vs. 33% of women).

 

TABLE 1

RIGHT DIRECTION OR WRONG TRACK – TREND

"Generally speaking, would you say things in the country are going in the right direction or have they pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track?"

Base: All adults

 

TREND

Right Direction

Wrong Track

%

%

2017

January

32

68

2016

December

35

65

 

November – post-election

28

72

November – pre-election

32

68

September/October

27

73

July

27

73

March

28

72

February

33

67

2015

December

29

71

 

November

31

69

October

34

66

September

32

68

August

34

66

July

34

66

June

30

70

May

35

65

April

33

67

March

35

65

February

38

62

Jan (Post-SOTU)

44

56

Jan (Pre-SOTU)

38

62

2014

December

30

70

 

November

34

66

October

34

66

September

29

71

August

32

68

July

31

69

June

33

67

May

35

65

April

34

66

March

34

66

February

34

66

January

31

69

2013

December

33

67

 

November

30

70

October

20

80

September

29

71

July

34

66

May

39

61

2012

March

34

66

 

January

27

73

2011

August

16

84

 

May

39

61

2010

December

29

71

 

April

39

61

2009

August

46

54

 

January

19

72


2008

October

11

83

 

February

23

69

2007

December

18

74

 

February

29

62

2006

May

24

69

 

February

32

59

2005

November

27

68

 

January

46

48

2004

September

38

57

 

June

35

59

2003

December

35

57

 

June

44

51

2002

December

36

57

 

June

46

48

2001

December

65

32

 

June

43

52

2000

October

50

41

 

June

40

51

1999

June

37

55

 

March

47

45

1998

December

43

51

 

June

48

44

1997

December

39

56

 

April

36

55

1996

December

38

50

 

June

29

64

1995

December

26

62

 

June

24

65

1994

December

29

63

 

June

28

65

1993

June

21

70

 

March

39

50

1992

June

12

81

 

January

20

75

1991

December

17

75

 

January

58

32



TABLE 2

 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

 

 

2011

2012

2013

Feb

June

July

Sept

Oct

Dec

Feb

Dec

Feb

March

April

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

34

26

23

21

20

23

36

33

32

30

29

32

32

29

27

22

22

25

27

Stay the same

42

41

41

45

46

47

40

31

40

37

41

42

41

44

42

46

37

44

42

Get worse

25

33

37

34

34

29

24

36

28

33

29

25

27

27

31

32

41

32

32

 

 

2014

2015

Jan

Feb

Mar

May

June

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Apr

June

Sept

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

26

26

24

26

22

25

22

26

27

28

32

28

26

25

26

24

Stay the same

44

43

45

48

51

46

49

45

51

50

47

49

51

49

43

44

Get worse

30

32

31

27

26

29

29

29

22

23

21

23

24

27

30

32

 

 

2016

2017

Mar

Jul

Sept

Nov pre-elect

Nov post-elect

Dec

Jan

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

21

20

19

24

33

39

36

Stay the same

52

51

52

49

35

33

37

Get worse

27

30

29

27

31

28

27

 

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


TABLE 3

EXPECTATIONS FOR HOUSEHOLD FINANCIAL CONDITION IN NEXT SIX MONTHS

“Thinking about your household’s financial condition, do you expect it to be better or worse in the next 6 months?”

 

Base:  All adults

 

2013

2014

Feb

Mar

April

May

June

July

Sept

Oct

Nov

Jan

Feb

Mar

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

BETTER (NET)

23

21

22

26

24

24

19

18

20

23

22

21

24

23

23

24

22

21

22

22

     Much better

3

3

4

5

4

5

4

3

4

4

4

4

5

4

6

6

4

3

4

4

     Somewhat better

20

17

18

20

20

19

15

15

16

18

19

17

20

19

18

18

18

18

18

19

Will remain the same

50

49

49

50

53

49

52

48

50

49

52

52

52

 54

51

51

53

53

57

56

WORSE (NET)

27

30

28

24

23

26

29

34

30

29

26

27

23

23

26

25

25

26

21

21

     Somewhat worse

20

21

20

18

17

18

21

24

19

19

18

19

17

17

18

17

18

18

16

15

     Much worse

7

9

8

6

6

9

8

11

11

10

8

8

7

7

8

8

7

8

5

6

 

 

2015

2016

2017

Jan

Feb

Apr

June

Sept

Dec

Mar

Jul

Sept

Nov pre-elect

Nov post-elect

Dec

Jan

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

BETTER (NET)

27

26

23

23

27

26

24

28

23

26

27

35

36

  Much better

6

5

5

5

6

6

5

8

5

7

7

9

11

Somewhat better

21

21

18

18

21

20

20

20

18

19

19

25

25

Will remain the same

53

55

56

55

50

49

53

55

57

55

49

46

52

WORSE (NET)

21

19

21

22

23

24

23

18

20

19

24

19

12

Somewhat worse

15

15

16

16

18

17

6

13

15

13

18

14

8

  Much worse

6

4

5

6

5

7

17

4

5

6

7

5

4

 

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

 

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between January 9 and 11, 2017 among 2,192 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll. 

The Harris Poll® #2, January 12, 2017

By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll

About The Harris Poll®

Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. 

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