ECONOMY POLL: Despite Improving Outlook, Most Pessimistic

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(CNNMoney) — Despite a recent string of positive economic news, Americans say they aren’t feeling the improvements.

A new CNN/ORC poll released Friday showed people were pessimistic that the economy was improving. Nearly 70% said the economy is generally in poor shape, and only 32% rated it good.

Two-thirds of respondents said most of the economic news they’ve heard recently was bad news. More rural than urban dwellers said the economy was in poor shape.

And just over half expected the economy to remain in poor shape a year from now.

By some metrics, the economy has moved ahead this year. The stock market, for example, has surged — the Nasdaq is up nearly 40% since January. Unemployment is at a five-year low point. Auto sales are at a seven-year high. Gas prices have dropped. And the housing sector, which dragged the U.S. into recession five years ago, is rebounding.

The Federal Reserve sees signs of strength, too. In December the central bank pulled back slightly on the stimulus that has boosted investor confidence this year.

But behind those numbers are the long-term unemployed, the under-employed and those who have dropped out of — or never even entered — the workforce. They’re not sharing in the surging stock market, and many are about to lose jobless benefits.

Those people aren’t buying big-ticket items like furniture or appliances, and some were cutting back on essentials. Thirty-six percent said they were cutting back spending on food or medicine, up from 31% in late 2008, the year the housing market collapsed.

The poll includes 1,035 adults surveyed by telephone between Dec. 16 and 19. It had a sampling error of plus or minus three points.