Voters cooling on economic outlook: poll

WASHINGTON Wed Aug 15, 2007 10:55am EDT

The Lebanese and American flags sit on display among other Middle Eastern items at the Nouri Brothers Shopping Center in Paterson, New Jersey, July 13, 2007. Most U.S. voters think the economy is fair shape, at best, and will grow at a slow pace over the next six months, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The Lebanese and American flags sit on display among other Middle Eastern items at the Nouri Brothers Shopping Center in Paterson, New Jersey, July 13, 2007. Most U.S. voters think the economy is fair shape, at best, and will grow at a slow pace over the next six months, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most U.S. voters think the economy is in fair shape, at best, and will grow at a slow pace over the next six months, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

Troubles in the housing and subprime mortgage sector have somewhat eroded voter confidence in the economy and this spans across most income groups and political affiliations, according to the national survey of 1,020 likely voters.

"There is not a huge amount of economic security out there, however, we're not Great Depression-bound," said pollster John Zogby.

In the national telephone survey taken August 9 through August 11, 42 percent believe the economy is in fair shape, eclipsing the 27 percent who believe it is in good shape and the scant 8 percent who said the economy is in excellent shape.

Six months from now the bulk of those surveyed believe that the economy will be growing slowly or doing even worse.

According to the poll, nearly 38 percent expect slow growth and 26 percent see the economy to be just treading water. Less than 3 percent expected the economy to advance at a fast pace.

Troubles in the housing sector have dampened voter sentiment about the economy, with more than 60 percent of those surveyed citing concerns about declining home prices.

Housing prices were especially a key worry among middle-income voters.

The full impact from a sinking housing market that has led a rise in mortgage defaults, particularly among riskier subprime mortgages, financial collapse of dozens of firms and costlier lending, has yet to take its full effect. Zogby noted there is a lag among consumers in feeling the full impact and, as a result, he predicted sentiment among voters will look weaker months from now.

"We will probably know even more a couple of months from now when people actually feel it," Zogby said.

Among those surveyed 64 percent said their ability to get a home loan is the same as it was a year ago. Among investors, however, 19 percent said it would be more difficult.

Confidence about job security was tepid, with less than half of those surveyed, about 47 percent, feeling very secure they will be able to hold on to their jobs.

Voter outlook on the stock market's performance over the next three months, amid a slowing economy, was also tepid, with about 36 percent expecting stock prices to stay the same and about 28 percent expecting a slight decline.

Still, many voters, 43 percent, believe that interest rates over the next three months will remain the same even with the housing market turmoil that have fed to the volatility in global markets.

The national telephone survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

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