Americans are still feeling pretty down about their financial situation, but their sentiment is improving, according to a new Gallup poll. The survey found that 41% describe their personal financial situation as excellent or good -- the lowest Gallup has measured in the past decade. But separately, the pollster also found increasing optimism.
Here's a chart Gallup provides to show that latter trend:
As you can see, optimism and pessimism have met for the first time since late 2007 -- just before the start of the recession. This is an indication that the recovery has likely begun in the minds of consumers. Yet, the previous statistic -- that showing Americans' comfort with their financial situation at a decade low -- indicates a strong recovery might be unlikely. Optimism is helpful, but can be choked by troubled personal finances. If consumers don't have money to spend, then all the positive sentiment in the world won't do much to revitalize the economy.
Gallup also grouped the results by income level:
Those top two rows are completely unsurprising. If you make more money, you feel better about your finances.
But the bottom two rows are interesting. They show more middle- and upper-class Americans feel their situations are getting better than those who believe things are getting worse. Respondents with lower incomes, however, have a much different view. There, only a tiny 30% see reason for optimism, while nearly 50% are pessimistic. These statistics lead to the troubling conclusion that the recession has been much harder on poorer Americans, and they anticipate that their suffering will be prolonged.