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Research and Statistics

Half of Americans say their finances are getting worse amid COVID-19

A Gallup poll conducted in April shows the pandemic has reversed a yearslong trend of financial optimism among U.S. adults


According to a new poll from Gallup, the share of Americans feeling optimistic about their financial situation has plunged dramatically as a result of the coronavirus crisis, while those with a negative outlook rose to a new high.

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After an 11-year climb out of the depths of the Great Recession, the share of Americans feeling optimistic about their financial situation plunged dramatically as a result of the coronavirus crisis, while those with a negative outlook rose to a new high.

The data come from Gallup’s latest annual installment of its Economy & Personal Finance Poll, which it has conducted every spring for the past two decades. One of the key questions it asks to measure Americans’ perception of financial well-being is whether they feel their overall financial situation is getting better or getting worse.

Generally, those feeling optimistic about the trend of their finances outnumber those who feel things are deteriorating. But in the wake of the financial crisis, the 2008 reading showed a stark reversal, with 49% of U.S. adults saying their financial situation was declining, and only 32% reporting it was improving.

See related: Poll: 23% of consumers added to their card debt in the pandemic

Every year since then, the share who see bad news in their personal finances has declined while those saying things are looking up has continued to rise. As a result, the 2019 data showed the largest gap in the poll’s more than 20-year history, with 57% saying their finances were getting better and only 27% saying things were getting worse.

Enter the COVID-19 pandemic, and the data for April 2020 show an almost exact copy of the 2008 reversal: U.S. adults feeling optimistic plunged from 57% down to 35%, while those saying their finances are getting worse skyrocketed to 50%.

The 50% reading on those feeling negative is the highest the poll has ever registered, beating 2008’s finding of 49%.

Gallup’s 2020 poll was conducted by phone from April 1-14 among a national sample of 1,017 U.S. adults age 18 or older. The results were released April 21.

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