Poll: Less Job Security is the "New Normal"

As noted, even more, 51 and 50 percent respectively, think job security and their ability to afford a comfortable retirement will remain worse than before the downturn began.

Each of these far exceeds the number who expect things in the future to be better than they were before the recession. The number of pessimists also surpasses those who think things simply will return to their pre-recession levels, but not advance beyond them.

There is one less glum outlook: Substantially fewer, 29 percent, think their ability to afford "small luxuries," like dining out, will be worse than it was before the recession began. More think this will go back to its pre-recession status. (Think, perhaps, McDonald's, which managed a 2.8 percent increase in U.S. same-store sales in May.)

FACTORS – Expectations of future economic conditions are by nature speculative, informed by political as well as economic judgments. Such is the case now: Republicans, with their far lower confidence in President Obama, have a much more negative view, Democrats much less so, with independents between the two.

Democrats and Republicans Differ on Job Prospects

Fifty-one percent of Republicans, for instance, think jobs will remain harder to find than before the recession began; just 30 percent of Democrats agree. Republicans likewise are about 20 points more apt to think health care costs, job stability and their own ability to afford things will be worse long-term than they were pre-recession.

Negative expectations also peak among 45- to 54-year-olds, whose ranks include mid- to late-career workers perhaps beginning to assess their life savings as they eye retirement. Expectations are least negative, by contrast, among the youngest adults, age 18 to 29, with the longest time frame for careers and savings alike.

Among other differences, men are 6 to 9 points more negative than women on job-specific metrics – availability, stability and advancement opportunities alike. And there are a few other issue-specific differences: Upper-income Americans are far less glum about being able to afford "small luxuries" and a little less negative about paying for "larger" ones. That holds out some slight hope for higher-end retailers, since better-off adults are their prime market.

Higher-income adults also are less wary than others of the stock market – but still 41 percent of those in $100,000-plus households say they'll be less willing in the future to invest in equities, two in 10 "much" less willing to do so. These jump to 58 percent less willing, 38 percent "much" less willing, among less well-off Americans.

There also are some regional differences, with expectations for job availability, security and advancement opportunities more negative in the Midwest (and to some extent in the Northeast) than elsewhere.

SPENDING PLANS – Such factors have little effect, though, on personal spending and saving intentions, where plans for retrenchment are similar across the board. Here the strong impact is expectations themselves: People who have more negative views of the future economy are more apt to plan to cut back.

Some of these differences are dramatic. Among people who think their ability to save for retirement will be worse in the future than it was pre-recession, 74 percent say they'll be less willing to spend money overall. That dives to just a third of those who see their retirement savings prospects as better or the same as before.

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