Americans Hold Steady Views on Standard of Living

January 10, 2011

gallup-living-standard-jan-2011.JPGAmericans’ perceptions of whether their standard of living is getting better or getting worse were fairly steady throughout 2010, according to new Gallup data. Gallup Daily tracking in December 2010 found 45% saying their standard of living was getting better, while 35% said it was getting worse, for a +10 “net improving” score.

Wealthier Americans More Likely to Say Standard is Getting Better

gallup-living-standard-income-jan-2011.JPGGallup analysis shows that Americans in the highest-income households have consistently been more optimistic about their standard of living than those in the lowest-income households. However, after two-and-a-half years when Americans with different household incomes were all generally seeing things as improving, Americans making $60,000 and above maintained their optimism in the second half of 2010, while those making less than $60,000 became less optimistic.

For example, Americans with a household income of $90,000 or more had a net improving score of +20 in January 2010 and +26 in December 2010, almost the same as the mid-year high of +27. Meanwhile, Americans with a household income of less than $24,000 started the year with a net improving score of 2, reached a high point of +9 mid-year, and then slid to a year-low of +1 in December 2010.

The stability in Americans’ outlook for their living standards during 2010 contrasts with the gradual recovery of perceptions in 2009 from the negative outlook that set in shortly after the Wall Street financial crisis erupted in September 2008. Still, Americans ended 2010 significantly less optimistic about their standard of living than they were as 2008 began.

Optimism Gap Hits Highest Point Since ’08

gallup-living-standard-optimism-gap-jan-2011.JPGThis divergence in the net optimism trends of the highest and lowest income groups can be seen more clearly in the relatively large net optimism gap between the two at the end of 2010. Net optimism among those in households earning at least $90,000 was 26 points in December, compared with one-point net optimism among those earning less than $24,000.

This 25-point gap (and the 24-point gap in November) contrasts with much lower gaps of no more than 20 points since October 2008. The gap declined significantly from January 2008, when it stood at 34 points.

Americans Optimistic for 2011

Americans enter the new year with considerably more optimism than pessimism about what it may bring, according to results of a another recent Gallup poll. Fifty-eight percent of respondents say 2011 will be better than 2010, 20% say 2011 will be worse, and 21% say it will be the same.

A majority of both optimists and pessimists are hedging their bets in their predictions for this year, however. The substantial majority of optimists say things will be “a little” better (45%) rather than “a lot” better (13%), and pessimists are more likely to say things will be a little worse (14%) rather than a lot worse (6%). Gallup has not previously asked this question, thus comparisons to responses from previous years are unavailable.

About the Data: Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Dec. 1- 29, 2010, with a random sample of 26,232 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.


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