Post Poll: 63 percent say Washington economy in good shape

September 30, 2012

Most Washington area residents consider the local economy to be in good shape, and the vast majority expect conditions to stay the way they are or improve, according to a new Washington Post poll.

Four years after the global financial collapse, more than six out of 10 local residents rate the area’s economy positively, with 54 percent calling it “good” and another 8 percent calling it downright “excellent.”

With economic issues playing a central role in the presidential race and the federal government facing the possibility of sharp spending cuts, the responses suggest that locals remain upbeat about the region’s ability to weather what may come.

Only 14 percent told pollsters the local economy is worsening. The rest expect conditions to either remain as they are or improve, with 44 percent saying they see it “staying the same” and 39 percent saying it is getting better.

Conducted by telephone from Sept. 10 to 16, the poll surveyed a random sample of 1,152 adult residents in the Washington area, including the District and close-in Maryland and Virginia counties.

The mood nationwide remains much darker. In a Bloomberg poll conducted nationwide over the same time period, just 14 percent of people voiced a positive view of the nation’s economy.

While the unemployment rate was 8.2 percent nationally in August, it was 5.9 percent in Virginia and 7 percent in Maryland. The District’s rate of 8.8 percent was higher than the national average, but falling.

Locals seem to be aware of how different conditions are outside the Beltway. When asked about the national economy, only 25 percent of Washington area residents give it good marks, and 2 percent say excellent. Instead, 50 percent say the national economy is “not so good” and 22 percent call it “poor,” compared with just 29 percent and 6 percent of respondents choosing those words to describe the situation locally.

Some of the relative optimism stems from area residents’ generally positive assessments of their own personal financial situations. Nearly seven in 10 Washington area adults say their personal finances are in good shape, or better, compared with fewer than three in 10 nationally.

Still, fewer than half of all Washington area consumers perceive that now is a good time for them to buy things they want and need. Most, 54 percent, see this as a “not so good” or “poor” time to make purchases. Consumers across the country are even more negative on the buying climate: 73 percent say it is a bad time to buy given their personal finances, according to the Bloomberg national survey.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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