Another economic snapshot captures doldrums


The latest look at consumer attitudes from The Harris Poll finds that although there has been slight improvement since the financial crisis began in earnest, there hasn’t been much change at all since the last time they checked in January 2011.

More Americans are considering decreases in restaurant visits and other entertainment expenditures than not, according to the latest Harris sounding. The good news is the results tend to be at par with or better than recent surveys asking the same questions – the bad news is that they are only at par with or slightly better than recent lackluster surveys.

For example, 61% are very likely or somewhat likely to decrease spending on restaurants during the next six months, for example. Harris asks 11 “likely-to-do” questions. We started with the May 2011 results and put the May 2010 results in parentheses for quick comparison.

61% Decrease spending on eating out at restaurants (64%)

59% Reduce spending on entertainment (62%)

51% Save or invest more money (52%)

34% Take a vacation away lasting longer than a week (36%)

28% Have more money to spend the way you want (27%)

25% Buy a new computer (20%)

19% Move to a different residence (19%)

14% Buy or lease a new vehicle (12%)

10% Start a new business (6%)

9% Purchase a house or condo (7%)

6% Buy a boat or RV (3%)

As you can see, in most cases there has been slight improvement in most categories. The one area where a little ground was lost was on the vacation away from home question, which may have something to do with current gasoline prices.

Harris analyzed the results it came up with, saying, ‘The fact that Americans are no longer making drastic cuts in non-essential spending is a good indicator for the economy’s growth, yet Americans simultaneously do not appear to be increasing spending on large purchases. This may suggest that the economy is not yet turning around, or it may actually suggest that the economy is improving but that Americans are more cautious now, choosing to test the waters of this new fiscal environment, rather than diving in head-first.”