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Recession Taking Emotional Toll, New Poll Finds

Jennifer Agiesta of the Washington Post's Polling Unit explains the latest data from the Post-ABC News poll which shows that despite American optimism in how Obama is handling the economy, as consumers they are skeptical about spending. Audio by Jennifer Agiesta/The Washington Post

"I go to the store and see things and say 'I don't need that,' " said a poll respondent, adding, "I have cut back on potato chips and clothing."

Fewer respondents said they have put off needed medical treatment, but the practice is most common among those with household annual incomes under $50,000 and those without a college degree.

People with children younger than 18 are feeling the impact of the recession more than others, with nearly two-thirds reporting economy-related stress and about seven in 10 saying they have reduced their spending. They are about twice as likely as respondents without children to have delayed the purchase of a new vehicle or major appliance. And the family vacation has become a common casualty of the downturn, with 56 percent having put off travel.

About a third of parents said they have reduced spending on their children's extracurricular activities, including nearly half of parents with household incomes of $50,000 or less.

At the same time, some are bucking the trend. Just under four in 10 report spending at about their usual level or higher. And those who said the economy is not a source of stress are returning to normal spending patterns. More than half of these unstressed consumers said they are spending at or above their regular level.

Said one respondent, "I have not cut back. I went and bought a new vehicle; that's the way to improve the economy."

This Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted March 26-29 among a random national sample of 1,000 adults including landline and cellphone-only respondents. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Polling director Jon Cohen contributed to this report.

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