Americans Not Feeling the Rebound

12/18/2009 12:43 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

While many have predicted or heralded a rebounding economy here in the United States, unfortunately the American consumer is just not there yet.

StrategyOne research from a national telephone survey conducted November 17-22, 2009 finds that:

1. While 5% of the American public describes the economy as doing fine, 34% feel we're in a mild recession, 41% feel we're in a deep recession and 12% feel we're in a 1930's style economic depression.

2. Our economic segmentation (getting better, hit bottom but not improving, and still falling) has barely budged since July. 45% say the economy has not hit bottom yet and will get worse. Another 18% think it has hit bottom, but is going nowhere.

With so much of our economic activity driven by consumer spending, at what point do these attitudes become self-fullfilling?

Combine these findings with the new NBC-Wall Street Journal Survey, and the natural question is whether Americans see this downturn as (a) just another recession that is part of the normal business cycle or (b) part of a much broader economic and geopolitical shift away from American dominance and toward a more multi-polar world.

Based on the Hart/McInturff poll, which I view as gold standard, the answer today appears to be "B".


1. Only 27% today feel that "our children's life will be better than it has been for us". (Q3b)
2. 61% feel that America is in a state of decline. (slightly better now compared to September 2008 during the financial meltdown) (Q15)
3. Americans are now split as to whether China or America will be the dominant power in 20 years. (Q23)

I was at the main market research conference for the US this fall. The prevailing opinion of this group, a group paid to follow consumer trends, was that this downturn is different, possibly a values changer. Our survey suggests that there is something to this thinking, as 30% said that the current economic recession has "very significantly" changed their general outlook on life.