Friday, August 05, 2005

Perceptions and self-reliance 

The news on the economy today is good, which leads Rocketman to wonder:
The oddest thing about the strong economic growth that has taken place over the last several years is how stubbornly many people refuse to recognize it. Polls continue to suggest that most Americans are unaware of the economy's excellent performance. Can that really be true? No doubt inadequate news coverage is a factor, but I can't believe that a majority of Americans really have no idea how the economy is performing. I suspect that when asked about the economy in opinion surveys, many people focus on what they perceive to be negative at the time--budget deficits, the price of gasoline--either because that's what's in the news, or because they hope to influence the government by voicing dissatisfaction.
True enough, looking at this Pew survey of economic perceptions. Remarking on the poll, they sound quite the same as John.

No single factor explains this cautious outlook. Instead, the public's economic unease appears to reflect a variety of concerns, both personal and national in scope. There is a broad consensus that gas prices are a significant problem for the nation, and the federal budget deficit also looms as a major source of anxiety.

Yet the polling identifies several other sources of financial worry. Public perceptions of local job availability remain highly negative, despite recent improvements in the national employment picture. While people with low household incomes are most troubled by financial problems of all types, including job shortages, about half of those with annual incomes above $75,000 say that jobs are scarce in their community.

Having thought a good deal about this topic twenty years ago when I wrote my dissertation on political business cycles, I have some ideas for why this is happening.