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Americans Thinking About Growth

February 13, 2013 3 minute Read by Amity Shlaes

What do people think about the prospects for strong growth, 4% growth? Do people even think about growth, or GDP as it is quantified by economists? Recently we asked SSRS, a much respected national polling company, to ask Americans about the country’s future. The findings show that many people believe the U.S. can grow faster. They also have opinions about how much of a difference various factors would make in allowing the U.S. economy to grow at a rate of 4% annually, instead of at the current rate of 2.5%. Reminded that India has grown an average of over 5% in the past 10 years, Americans were asked how likely it was the U.S. could ever match India. Only 14% said it was very likely, about half thought matching India was “not too likely” or “not at all likely.” Only one in 20 respondents said they didn’t know. The survey asked respondents about six different policy choices and for each asked if it would make a big difference, some difference, or no difference in allowing the U.S. economy to grow at a rate of 4% annually. Nearly six in 10 (59%) said that they believed getting the federal budget in balance would make a “big difference” and a similar proportion (56%) said that stabilizing the dollar would make a “big difference.” Of the respondents, 43% thought lowering tax rates for everyone would make a big difference, with only 15% saying they thought tax cuts would make “no difference." Meanwhile 36% thought limiting immigration would make a big difference in improving growth, but 21% thought “bringing in more workers from other countries” would make a big difference. Americans are less divided about immigration than the media tend to allege; this poll suggests that when immigrants can work, Americans are more favorable to the immigration concept. Finally, the SSRS poll asked people whether they have heard experts or politicians talk about 4% growth. Only 7% responded “often.” We hope to get that number up here at the 4% Growth Project.