How many Americans believe the U.S. is currently in a recession or headed over that cliff sometime soon? CivicScience regularly tracks beliefs and concerns related to the “R” word, along with many other economic indicators. The latest data from thousands of U.S. adult respondents show that as of December, 35% believe the U.S. economy is in a recession and 24% think it will enter into one in the next month.

Opinions on the issue remain split among the American public. However, things are changing. Both recession beliefs and concerns peaked in September, but have been precipitously falling month over month since then. This coincides with rising economic sentiment and outlook for a number of factors, such as the job market and personal finances, which began climbing in October (tracked by the CivicScience-Penta Economic Sentiment Index).

Even so, at the moment the majority of Americans (69%) believe a recession is either already here or just around the corner. And about one-third are ‘very concerned’ about a recession, while an additional 47% are at least ‘somewhat concerned.’

What’s fueling these beliefs and concerns? Job layoffs, mixed messages from experts, and repeated warnings of continued interest rate hikes could lead many to believe a recession is imminent. When asked to identify the leading indictor (selecting one out of five options) that the U.S. is in a recession or headed toward one, most cited inflation and high prices (54%). However, for 36%, other factors besides inflation serve as bigger indicators, including their personal financial situation or the current job market.

Just 11% cited reports in the news as a leading indicator, however CivicScience data show several correlations between news consumption and recession beliefs. Those who believe the U.S. economy is currently in a recession are significantly more likely to say they generally follow economic and financial news. For one, they are much more likely to be ‘very closely’ following news about the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes, compared to those who think a recession will happen down the line or not at all.

Additionally, data show extreme differences in recession beliefs among people who consume different types of news media, particularly cable news networks. Data gathered since the start of November reveal that a stunning 85% of Fox News viewers believe the U.S. is currently in a recession, whereas only 12% of CNN viewers and 17% of MSNBC viewers believe the same. Rather, the majority of CNN and MSNBC viewers don’t believe the U.S. is likely to enter into a recession any time within the next year. Consumers who don’t follow these cable news networks appear more evenly distributed in terms of recession outlook for the U.S.

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