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January 18, 2001

Poll Shows 55% of People in the U.S. Expect Recession
By Dow Jones Newswires

It's Not Often That We're Part of the Majority ... Weiss comments

WASHINGTON - More than half of Americans say they expect a recession, a new poll found, and they are cool to tax cuts - a top priority of the incoming administration of President-elect Bush, the Associated Press reported.

The ABC News-Washington Post poll indicated 55% of Americans think the country is headed into a recession. And only a fourth of Americans said tax cuts are a top priority, putting tax cuts well down the list of priorities behind such top concerns as education, keeping the economy strong and protecting Social Security. Mr. Bush takes office Saturday.

Concerns about the economy that were found in this poll have surfaced in several recent surveys.

Mr. Bush got generally good grades on his transition, with more than seven of 10 saying they approve of transition efforts to this point and almost that many saying they approve of his Cabinet choices. Just over half, 54%, said they favor confirmation of Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft, who has been criticized by some for his conservative positions.

Four of 10 in the poll said they don't believe Mr. Bush was legitimately elected, including almost half of women and three-fourths of Democrats.

Raising military pay, a top Bush priority, and campaign-finance reform, an issue championed by Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain, finished low on the list of priorities.

By 52% to 41%, more people feel that Mr. Bush should compromise with Democrats on issues they strongly oppose than feel he has a mandate to carry out his campaign agenda.

The public's enthusiasm for the proposed missile-defense programs Mr. Bush supports tends to wane when questions are raised. Four in five support the program, but that number drops steadily to a minority when questions are raised about the cost and how well it will work.

The poll of 1,513 adults was taken Jan. 11-15 and has an error margin of 2.5 percentage points.

Just yesterday, we told you that if economists looked at what's happening around them, they'd see that the economy is heading toward a serious slowdown. But if they need some data to back it up, here it is. A majority of Americans feel that a recession is in the pipeline.

A whole host of things can bring an economy to its knees within a matter of months -- high oil prices, a botched Presidential election, etc. -- but there is little that can be done to pull the economy out of this nosedive in a short amount of time. That's because the vicious downward spiral feeds on itself. High oil and energy prices, slowdown in demand, bad corporate earnings reports, a plummeting stock market, and lay-offs all build on one another to zap consumer and investor confidence.

Irrational exuberance is what kept this economy humming along for as long as it did -- the lack of exuberance (irrational or otherwise) is what will put this economy on the fast track to recession.

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