"WASHINGTON (CNN) — Nearly half of Americans feel the U.S. economy is in a recession, marked by a significant decline in economic activity, according to a survey released Thursday.
The poll by the CNN-Opinion Research Corporation found that while 46 percent of Americans hold that belief, 51 percent don't."
The article does define what constitutes a recession, but offers no explanation of whether or not such definition was read to those polled prior to asking their opinion.
InvestorWords.com offers the following defintion which is a bit easier to understand:
"A period of general economic decline; specifically, a decline in GDP for two or more consecutive quarters."
Interestingly, 2007 second quarter GDP growth was 3.8%, which is an increase over the first quarter growth of .6% (source). Obviously, with an increase between first and second quarters of 2007, we do not have a decline 'for two or more consecutive quarters.' In fact, according to this chart from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (did you even know it existed?), GDP has shown growth in every quarter since the third quarter of 2001 (based on chained 2000 dollars).
About two weeks ago, there was a interesting discussion on Swamp Bubbles about the economic figures that had just been released. The question I asked, which remains unanswered, was 'if these are bad numbers, what do they have to be to indicate a 'good' economy?' Most people judge an economy by their own personal perspectives often attributing the overall economy to be indicative of their personal situation. Some believe that they're doing okay, but based upon stories and news reports, think their neighbors are having a tough time, contributing to the subjective perspective of the economy as a whole.
And that discussion, combined with this poll, makes me wonder why we even bother to conduct such polls. It's clear that if 46% of those polled think we're in a recession, they do not understand how a recession is defined and are thus 'unqualified' to offer an opinion. If we polled economists, those who are supposed to be 'experts' or at least authoritative on the issue, would they say the same thing as the "public"?
So what is the purpose of such polls? And why is that no one asks qualifying questions before asking one's opinion and then extrapolating that into what 'America' thinks?
UPDATE: a rather succinct perspective on WHY 46% think it's a recession is available here.