Economic anxiety has nearly tripled among consumers in past six months

Economic anxiety is not just rising, it is sprinting its way to new heights, with 61 percent of consumers saying they feel high or severe levels of anxiety, according to the most recent Yankelovich study fielded in June 2008.

The latest Yankelovich tracking of economic worries finds that 37 percent of consumers feel severe economic anxiety, a number that has nearly tripled in only six months. In the first wave of tracking in January 2008, only 14 percent of consumers felt severe economic anxiety, while 19 percent felt high anxiety and 32 percent felt moderate anxiety.

"As the price of gas and other necessities rise, consumer anxiety is following suit," said J. Walker Smith, president of Yankelovich MONITOR. "This has huge implications for marketers, because people will continue to make significant cutbacks." According to Smith, the often ambiguous and sometimes conflicting economic indicators don't show the reality of the current economy.

"What matters is what people feel. And what people feel right now is verging on panic," said Smith. "What the economy needs most right now is firm, confident leadership -- a strong voice to steady the nerves and boost the resolve of consumers."

The big question is who will step up to calm consumer anxiety. "Political leaders aren't doing it, so business leaders must," Smith said. "Our data show a clear need for something in addition to a fiscal stimulus; there is a huge need for leadership. Economic anxiety is too high to be solely a function of pocketbooks alone. People want to budget, economize and save money, but they want a reason to believe in their economic futures again, too."

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