WASHINGTON, D.C., January 31, 2022 – As 2022 has begun with volatile financial markets, the continuation of COVID-19, rising prices and supply chain disruptions, a new study shows widespread economic pessimism among Americans – with inflation emerging as their primary concern.
In the latest Argyle-Leger Confidence Report, a series of national surveys that examine Americans’ attitudes and behaviors related to their confidence in information on key issues, 66 percent cite inflation as their biggest concern for 2022, followed by COVID-19 (53%), supply chain issues (38%), and too much government spending (31%).
Perhaps most striking is the differences in outlook among region, age, and class. While 37 percent are pessimistic about the economy, that number is significantly higher in the Midwest (44%), and among those over 65 (53%). And while 47 percent are pessimistic about how inflation will affect them in 2022, that number if significantly higher among those making $50,000 – $100,000/year (56%).
“While there are many reasons for public pessimism as 2022 begins, it’s eye-opening to see inflation dwarf the pandemic as a top concern,” said Argyle CEO Daniel Tisch. “The fact that COVID is now a secondary economic issue is a critical sea change – one that must transform the way business and government leaders communicate with their public and stakeholders.”
Economic pessimism not necessarily linked to personal finances
Despite their pessimistic outlook, most Americans expect to take home more money in 2022. More than 75 percent expect to have “additional money” after covering living expenses. Of those, 54 percent indicated they will save their extra money, while only 16 percent will invest it and seven percent will spend it – potentially indicating Americans’ fear of a looming financial crisis, continued price hikes, or significant stock market declines.
In addition, 35 percent expect a raise in 2022, with that number climbing to 64 percent among Americans who are optimistic about their personal financial future. However, the picture is starkly different for those with lower household incomes (less than $35,000/year). 44 percent have less savings now than they did at the end of 2020. This is true for a third of all Americans.
“While there is widespread concern about inflation and America’s economic outlook, the reasons for that concern differ greatly by age, socioeconomic status and geography,” Simon Jaworski, EVP of Leger USA said. “The fear of inflation is crystal clear, but the underlying economic concerns are more nuanced. How you feel depends a lot on who you are.”
The ‘Great Resignation’ showing signs of slowing?
These findings also shed light for employers as they seek to engage, recruit and retain a fast-changing workforce.
As a 2021 Argyle/Leger survey concluded, an overwhelming number of Americans endorsed their employers’ performance during the pandemic. However, that endorsement now carries increased expectations – and increased opportunities – for strategic communication and employee engagement. The latest study reveals that while fewer Americans are actively planning to change jobs, a significant number also remain “open” to new opportunities. Specifically:
- 12% of Americans plan to change jobs in 2022, although it is significantly higher among those with part-time jobs (20%).
- However, more than 45% of those currently employed either full or part-time are ‘open to new opportunities’ in 2022.
- Among those considering changing jobs, more money is the driving factor for 72%. 30% are looking to change fields altogether.
- Among those currently working, 33% feel their current company will grow in 2022, while only 7% expect it to shrink, with the majority feeling they will remain the roughly same (60%).
“Employers’ relationships with their employees are being tested by both economic and public health uncertainty,” Tisch said. “The more leaders can fortify internal confidence, the better positioned they will be for external challenges – whether reputational, operational or financial. Success will require empathy, flexibility, clarity of purpose, and leadership through communication.”
About the study
The Argyle-Leger Confidence Report is the second in a series that examines Americans’ attitudes and behaviors on issues related to their confidence in information, institutions, leaders, and sources of authority. This survey involved approximately n=1,005 American adults, completed between January 1st – 2nd 2022, using Leger’s online panel. A probability sample of 1,000 respondents would have a margin of error of +/-2.6%, 9 times out of 10.
For more than 40 years, Argyle has been chosen by the world’s biggest brands, put big ideas onto the public agenda, and grown to become one of North America’s most acclaimed reputation, communications and public engagement firms. Argyle’s clients span many sectors, including finance, technology, healthcare, food and beverage, hospitality, professional services, infrastructure, government, non-profits and many more.
Argyle has more than 130 full-time employees in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Victoria and Ottawa, with affiliates in Montreal and Quebec City, and in more than 40 countries around the world.
Leger is one of North America’s largest independent full-service research firms, with over 600 employees in Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver in Canada, and Philadelphia in the United States. The LEO (Leger Opinion) panel is the largest Canadian panel with over 400,000 representative panelists from all regions of Canada. Leo was created by Leger based on a representative Canadian sample of Canadian citizens with Internet access.
Poll aggregator 338Canada.com gave Leger the highest rating among all polling firms in Canada for the accuracy of its studies. See https://338canada.com/pollster-ratings.htm.
About the Authors
Daniel Tisch is the President and CEO of Argyle. He is one of North America’s best-known communicators, having worked at senior levels in government before embarking on a 25-year consulting career in which he has advised CEOs, boards, government leaders and marketers for some of the world’s biggest brands.
Robert Gemmill is an attorney and one of the foremost experts in corporate reputation, crisis and risk, and litigation communications. He is Argyle’s SVP and GM in Washington, DC.
Simon Jaworski, EVP, Leger USA