Americans are pessimistic about the economy -- and that's putting it mildly.
A November 11th Gallup poll found that Americans' overall perception of the jobs market is the worst that is has been in a decade. Responding to the question, "...Would you say that it is now a good time or a bad time to find a quality job?" over 90 percent of the survey's participants said that it was a "bad time."
In addition, an Associated Press/GfK poll discovered that a record high of respondents, 43 percent, describe the nation's economy as "very poor." The same poll also showed that a mere 23 percent of the population believes that the unemployment rate will decrease.
Numbers like these are nothing new; we've been seeing polls like this for well over two years. Many of us might even be at a point where we can't recall the last time public sentiment believed the economic outlook to be positive. This observation begets an intriguing question: Could this sweeping negativity actually be depressing the economy? By continually thinking that the economy is bad, are we, in effect, making it worse?
It's certainly possible. A 2007 study from the University of Chicago published in the Journal of Consumer Research revealed that negativity is contagious, and it can be an influential driver of societal consumer attitudes. According to the study's press release:
Consumers were presented with information about a new product and
allowed to independently form their evaluations. As would be normally
expected with many products, some of these evaluations were positive and
others negative. The researchers then revealed to participants whether their peers
evaluated the product negatively or positively. They found that the
opinions of others exert especially strong influence on individual
attitudes when these opinions are negative.
There is a parallel that can be drawn from this study to the current economic situation. Poll after poll has consistently suggested that the majority of Americans believe the economy to be in the toilet, and potentially heading further down the u-bend. Such an expression of negativity undoubtedly has an adverse effect on consumer spending, business hiring, bank lending, and a host of other factors that influence the overall well being of our economy.
The obvious solution to this problem is to adopt a "think positive" mentality. Though this mindset will not solve our nation's economic woes by itself, it definitely couldn't hurt.