A majority of voters think the economy will be in worse shape in 2023 than it is now and roughly two-thirds say the nation’s economic trajectory is headed in the wrong direction, the latest Wall Street Journal poll shows.
The survey, conducted Dec. 3-7, suggests a recent burst of positive economic news—moderating gas prices and a slowing pace of inflation—haven’t altered the way many feel about the risk of a recession, something many economists have forecast as likely.
“I just think we are headed toward a recession and it could be a pretty big one,” said Republican poll participant
a 61-year-old retired executive with the Boy Scouts of America who lives in Shelton, Conn. “Interest rates are skyrocketing and that’s going to take us down.”
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday approved an interest-rate increase of 0.5 percentage point and signaled plans to keep raising rates at its next few meetings to combat high inflation. The move reflected some moderation after four consecutive increases of 0.75 point.
Economic pessimism is strongest among Republicans, with 83% expecting the economy to worsen. Slightly more than half of independents feel that way, while 22% of Democrats do.
“Our economic diagnostics have become partisan,” said Democratic pollster
who conducted the survey with Republican pollster
“If there was a Republican president, we might see the reverse.”
Mr. Fabrizio said Democrats aren’t paying as much of a political price as one might expect for so many people having negative feelings about the economy. “You would normally see that translate into being bad news for the Democrats,” he said.
Democrats did better than expected in last month’s midterm elections, keeping control of the Senate while losing the House by a narrower margin than nonpartisan analysts forecast.
Younger voters are more pessimistic about the economy’s prospects next year than older voters. Roughly six in 10 of those ages 18-34 expect it to be worse over the next year, while 42% of those 65 and older feel that way.
Democratic poll participant
a 38-year-old business consultant and entrepreneur who lives in Fayetteville, Ga., said she is already seeing some of the small-business people she works with act as if they are in a recession.
“I’ve seen a drastic contraction in what people are willing to spend,” Ms. Lewis said. “When entrepreneurs are scared to invest and expand, that trickles down to a lot of other things in the economy.”
Even if inflation slows to a more normal level, Ms. Lewis said she expects it will take some time to “undo some of the trauma” people have experienced in the economy this past year. “It takes time for consumer confidence to be rebuilt,” she said.
Reflecting the pessimism about the economy, voters also remain gloomy about the nation’s overall direction, with 66% saying things are headed the wrong way. That is a slight improvement from the 71% who felt that way before the election.
The poll shows financial pressure from inflation is stabilizing, as gasoline prices and overall inflation have eased. After rising throughout 2022, the share who say higher prices are causing major financial strains has been flat since the Journal’s October survey, at about 35%.
The national average price of regular unleaded gasoline was $3.25 a gallon on Tuesday, down more than 50 cents a gallon from a month earlier, according to energy-data and analytics provider OPIS, that is part of
‘s Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal. As recently as mid-June, prices were above $5 a gallon.
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As the Federal Reserve works to fight inflation, slightly more voters view the central bank negatively than positively, 40% to 36%, while 24% didn’t rate it either way. A slim majority of Democrats hold a favorable view, while 57% of Republicans view it unfavorably.
The Wall Street Journal poll of 1,500 registered voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points on the full sample, was conducted by Impact Research and Fabrizio, Lee & Associates. Half of the participants were reached on their cellphones, with the remaining split evenly between landline phones and text messaging accompanied by an online survey.
—Aaron Zitner contributed to this article.
Write to John McCormick at email@example.com
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