For the last several years the economy has been one of the hottest topics, and one everyone—including politicians, economists, retailers, business owners, employees and consumers—has been following closely. Much has been said about Americans' cutting back, budgeting, and possibly, a "new normal". The Harris Poll has been tracking Americans' spending and savings plans for over three years and on the whole has not seen a tremendous amount of change. This month, similarly to the last time the questions were asked in May 2011, six in ten U.S. adults say they are likely to decrease spending on eating out at restaurants (61%) and on entertainment (58%) within the next 6 months.
Despite reducing their spend in these non-essential areas, Americans do not seem to indicate, overwhelmingly, that they will be saving or investing more in the coming 6 months—51% say they are likely to, and 49% say they are unlikely to do so. These numbers remain generally constant since November of 2008 when 49% said they would save or invest more money.
This month only three in ten say they are likely to take a vacation lasting longer than a week in the next six months (29%) while seven in ten say they are unlikely to do this (71%). This expected travel has dropped from 34% who said they were likely to take this type of vacation in May, which should be noted was right before the traditional summer vacation months.
Buying a boat or recreational vehicle (97% unlikely);
Buying or leasing a newly manufactured car, truck or van (88% unlikely);
Moving to a different residence (86% unlikely) or purchasing a house or condo (93% unlikely); and,
Starting a new business (94% unlikely).
Technology manufacturers and retailers may not be pleased that as the holiday and gift-giving season approaches over three-quarters of Americans say they are unlikely to buy a new computer (77%). And, many others who rely on seasonal spending this time of year may also be worried as a majority of Americans say they are unlikely to have more money to spend the way they want (74%). The percentage of Americans who say they will have more money to spend (26%) is down from the 28% who said so in May 2011 and the 30% who said so in January 2011 and is at its lowest point since September of 2009, when only 25% said they would have more money.
As the economy fluctuates and Americans continue to feel pessimistic about employment prospects, it only follows that non-essential spending would continue to be scrutinized. While spending in some of these areas, including on major purchases and travel, could provide a boost for the struggling economy, Americans will likely continue to hold back until they feel more comfortable. And, any extra spending that is done this time of year is usually on holiday presents, and January tends to be when consumers cut back spending to pay of those bills. Thus, as it stands now, the cycle of bad feelings and decreased spending does not look like it's positioned to change anytime soon.
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between November 7 and 14, 2011 among 2,499 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.