Americans are now more worried about the rise in the cost of living than they have been since January 1975, when the economy was suffering from double-digit inflation. A substantial 64 percent of the public feel that prices are rising more rapidly now than a year ago, up from 40 percent who felt that way last July.
Moreover, almost 8 out of 10 people expect prices to be rising as fast or faster a year from now. Last July, 59 percent felt this way about the outlook for prices.
People are inclined to take out their frustrations over inflation on President Carter, and this accounts for the lopsided 76 and 17 percent majority that gives him negative marks on "his handling of the economy." This latest result is a complete turnaround from a year ago, when Carter scored 47 to 46 percent positive. The President's economic rating is far lower than any other part of the record he has built to date.
In sharp contrast, the public appears to be considerably less worried about unemployment than it was last year. According to a recent Harris Survey of 1,508 adults nationwide, only 29 percent now report that joblessness in the areas where they live is increasing compared to a year ago. In February 1977 the figure was 46 percent. However, only 13 percent think the country will continue to show progress in reducing unemployment in the next 12 months.
These views about different aspects of the economy lead a 52 to 33 per cent majority to the opinion that the country is still in a recession. And by 49-24 percent, a plurality is convinced that there will be a recession a year from now. This represents the most gloomy economic outlook the American people have registered in more than two years.
The feelings of the public have long been at odds with the statistics of professional economists who proclaimed that the country had recovered by late 1975 and early 1976 from the most severe economic recession in the postwar era. The scar tissue from the traumatic period of double-digit inflation and high unemployment has not healed. Despite a marked improvement in the employment picture, Americans feel that rising inflation can deepen and prolong the economic bad times they feel they are suffering through.