• The poll of 1,016 adults was conducted April 14-28, before first quarter GDP was released
  • Nearly half expect unemployment would increase
  • 56% predicted inflation while 20% forecast deflation

Nearly three-quarters of Americans say the U.S. economy is in recession, but they are optimistic about the prospects of the stock market and economic outlook improving in the next six months, a Gallup poll indicated Monday. Nearly half said they believe both unemployment and inflation to increase, side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The poll of 1,016 adults April 14-28 was taken before last week’s first-quarter gross domestic product estimate was released, showing the economy contracting 4.8% with coronavirus shutdowns just two weeks old. Some 30 million Americans have filed first-time unemployment claims since mid-March. Experts have predicted April unemployment rate, which is to be released Friday, could be as high as 20%, a level not seen since the Great Depression.

Respondents views, however, are not as dire as they were leading up to the Great Recession.

“The historical context thus suggests today isn't the worst of economic times in Americans' recent memory. On the other hand, it shows how much worse the public's mood can get,” Gallup said. “At the rate economic confidence declined in March, it could easily descend further in the coming months if bad news on unemployment and GDP continues to roll in.”

The poll indicated 72% of Americans think the economy is in recession (42%) or depression (30%), up from 66% a month ago. Seventy-one percent said they expect conditions to get worse, with 49% saying they expect unemployment to increase while 44% said it would decrease, and 56% forecast increased inflation while 20% predicted deflation.

“Americans have quickly come to recognize that not only is the economy headed in a negative direction, but the current economy is ailing. About four in 10 adults in each Gallup telephone poll this month have rated economic conditions as ‘poor,’ and another third have called them ‘only fair,’” Gallup said. Only 23% said economic conditions are good or excellent.

About half of those polled (51%) said they expect the stock market to go up while 39% predicted it would go down.

“At the time of the poll, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had recovered about half its losses from the sharp downturn in March, perhaps fueling this optimism,” Gallup said.