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Economy Poll: Are You Better Or Worse Off Than Last Year?

Posted at 11:59 AM, Jun 19, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-19 11:59:06-04

MoneyWashington (CNN) – Call it a mixed bag.

They’re still a minority, but an increasing number of Americans say economic conditions right now are good, according to a new national poll.

But a CNN/ORC International survey released Wednesday morning also indicates that a plurality of the public says they are personally worse off than they were a year ago.

Thirty-five percent of those questioned in the poll say that economic conditions in the country right now are “very” or “somewhat” good. There has been a slow, steady rise in CNN polling on the percentage who say things are good right now, from 26% in December to 31% in March, 33% in May and 35% now.

But nearly two-thirds say they currently rate the economy as poor. And that may help explain, on a personal level, why 44% of Americans say their financial situation is worse today than it was a year ago. Thirty-six percent say they are better off and one in five say their personal finances are about the same. The numbers are little changed from a CNN poll from May of last year.

“Americans are no more positive about their own personal financial situation than they were a year ago, suggesting that American households don’t necessarily see good news on Wall Street as good news for Main Street,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

How will things stand a year from now?

There are almost exactly as many optimists as pessimists in the general public, with 50% saying economic conditions will be good in the summer of 2014 and 49% forecasting a poor economy. That’s about where Americans stood in 2010, and is definitely more optimistic than 2011, but appears to represent a big drop from 2012, when two-thirds said conditions would be good in a year.

“The 2012 numbers, however, were heavily influenced by the presidential election, when both Democrats and Republicans thought conditions would be better in the following year, probably because both sides thought their candidate was going to win,” adds Holland. “This also happened in 2008 and appears to have happened in 2004 as well.”

In non-presidential years, with a Republican in the White House, Democrats tend to be pessimists and Republicans tend to be optimists. With a Democrat in the White House, the reverse is usually true, and that pattern has reasserted itself again this year. In 2012, a majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans predicted a good economy in 2013. That almost never happens except in presidential election years, leading to expectations that the optimism number would drop once it was clear who would be in the White House for the next four years.

“Sure enough, in 2013 optimism is now half of what it was among Republicans. Although economic optimism is down somewhat among Democrats and independents, the GOP change is the driving force behind a 17-point drop in the number of Americans overall who say conditions will be good a year from now,” says Holland.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International June 11-13, with 1,014 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey’s overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report