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Are We Headed For a Depression?

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

CNBC, First in Business Worldwide, and Acorns, the country's fastest-growing financial wellness system, today announced the results of the latest Invest in You Survey. The national survey, conducted in partnership with SurveyMonkey (Nasdaq: SVMK), a leading global survey software company, examined the spending behavior of nearly 2,800 Americans ages 18 and up.

With a new decade approaching and a Presidential election one year away, the Invest in You Survey explored how Americans are feeling about their finances for the year to come. The survey found some surprising results about the economic and personal finance views that voters will take to the polls next year, whether they think a recession is coming and if it is, what they might do about it.

Key findings from the Invest in You Survey include:

A majority of Americans (65%) say a recession is likely to occur over the next year. Of those who expect a recession in the next year, nearly half say they’re proactively paying down debt (47%) or cutting household spending (45%), and a full third (34%) say they’re growing an emergency fund.


Young people age 18-24 are the most likely to say they aren’t taking any steps to prepare for a recession (23%), and they’re also some of the most likely to say they expect a recession to occur (71%). Democrats (84%) and Independents (72%) are more likely than Republicans (46%) to expect a recession. A majority of people say the next election is mainly about issues other than the economy (61% vs. 34%).


Economic issues have more salience among Republicans than Democrats, with 42% of Republicans but just 27% of Democrats saying the election will mainly be about the economy for them. 44% of Americans say they are better off financially than they were in 2016, the final year of Barack Obama’s administration. These numbers are particularly bolstered by Republicans, 66% of whom say they are better off now than in 2016. Among Democrats, 41% say they are about the same financially as in 2016, while 32% say they are worse off and 27% say they are better off. Half of the respondents (50%) expect their personal spending to stay about the same over the next 12 months, with nearly even numbers of people expecting their spending to decrease (27%) as opposed to increasing (22%).

Nearly half (49%) expect to spend about the same on gifts for family and friends this holiday season compared to last year; 36% say they will spend less, and just 13% say they will spend more. A majority (65%) say they noticed a recent increase in the cost of everyday items they buy most often.“Food” is mentioned by far the most often as the one item that has increased the most, with many respondents naming the specific food products (beef, fruit, a gallon of milk) that have seen cost increases.


“With a steady national economy, most voters prioritize non-economic issues as they think ahead to the 2020 election," says Jon Cohen, chief research officer at SurveyMonkey. “A sizable majority expects a recession to occur in the next year and are taking steps to prepare financially, but their political focus is far more divided.”

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.


Methodology: This SurveyMonkey online poll was conducted on October 20-25, 2019 among a national sample of 2,776 adults. Respondents for this survey were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over. Full results available here.