Sixty-one percent is a pretty big portion. This might not be surprising if you think about how the number of discouraged Americans has increased in recent months according to the official unemployment report. Here's the chart I used to show this earlier in the month:
So the Gallup poll reinforces the idea that discouragement is a problem. Since some of its respondents are likely still trying to find work, despite being discouraged, I wouldn't imagine that this number is going to decline significantly in monthly unemployment reports to come.
But it's sort of hard to tell how alarming we should find this data. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, this is the first time Gallup has conducted a poll tracking discouraged underemployed Americans. So we can't really identify if 61% is better or worse than it was, say, six months or a year ago. But it sure sounds bad. And logic dictates that the portion of discouraged job seekers has probably increased since the start of the recession: as people remain unemployed for longer, discouragement will generally follow.
Also interesting to note from the report: the more educated were even more pessimistic than the less educated. The survey also found that nearly two-thirds of those with a college or graduate degree were not hopeful. That could partially have to do with expectations. It probably seems easier to find an unskilled job, since jobs that require skills will only be open to those with certain backgrounds. If you can apply to more jobs openings, then you are probably less discouraged.
Amusingly, the poll also tracked how respondents felt about President Obama's performance. As you might expect, those who are more hopeful were more likely to embrace the President. He did, after all, run a campaign based on hope and change. Here are those results: