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Americans' views on the state of the economy reached new heights in the latest CNBC All-America Economic survey with a record 27 percent judging the economy as excellent or good, the highest level in eight years.
A year ago, just 16 percent of the public gave the economy good marks, and it was just 4 percent at the beginning of the 2008 recession.
The CNBC poll of 800 Americans across the nation, conducted by the Democratic/Republican polling duo of Hart-McInturff, carries a margin of error of 3.5 percent.
The latest numbers show how far the public's attitudes on the economy have come since the economic bottom but also how far there is to go. The level of optimism remains about 10 points below where it routinely stood before the recession.
The most educated Americans, that is, those with post-graduate degrees and higher, along with those who expected their wages to go up and seniors were the leading groups whose economic views improved from last quarter. Views on the economy deteriorated most for Independents, the wealthiest Americans, that is, those with $100,000 in income or more, along with Americans with just some college education.
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On the outlook for the economy, the public's views have further to recover. Only 28 percent of Americans believe the economy will get better in the next year, a one-point improvement from last quarter but below the post-recession high of 36 percent in March 2012. Even in the middle of the recession, Americans were more optimistic, with 42 percent of the public believing that the economy would improve in December 2008.
Views on the economy were helped by relatively upbeat views on wage expectations and increases in home values. The net percentage of Americans expecting their home values and wages to go up (that is, those expecting an increase minus those expecting a decrease) were both at post-recession highs last quarter and came off only a bit in March.
A possible sign that the economy is in better shape is that Americans seem a little less focused on it overall. Asked about the top issue for the 2016 presidential election, 23 percent of the public pick the economy and unemployment as their No. 1 issue, followed by healthcare with 17 percent. But as recently as last year, the economy was the top issue for 40 percent of the public, according to a CNN poll.
Meanwhile, average investors are a bit less bullish on stocks then they were last quarter, but the wealthiest Americans—those with at least $100,000 in income and $50,000 in stocks—are more bullish than they were.