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Poll: U.S. Cuts Back On Holiday Spending

As they absorb reports about widespread job losses and an economy now officially in recession, Americans are cutting back on their holiday spending to a degree unseen in at least two decades, a new CBS News poll finds.

Fifty-four percent of those surveyed plan to spend less money on gifts this season - the highest number since CBS News began asking the question in 1987. Just four percent plan to spend more than they have in the past few years, a historic low.

And 91 percent of Americans now say the economy is in bad shape, the highest percentage in the history of the CBS News poll. Sixty percent say it is getting worse. The percentage of Americans who say the economy is even somewhat good - just 9 percent - represents another historic low. A year ago, 41 percent of Americans thought the economy was in good shape.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they will spend under $500 on holiday gifts this year. Only 11 percent will spend over $1,000.

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More than one in five, meanwhile, say that financial concerns have prompted some change in their holiday travel plans.

With the U.S. unemployment rate at 6.7 percent, the highest level since 1993, Americans are pessimistic about the job market in their area. While 41 percent expect it to stay the same, an identical percentage expects it to get worse. Just 17 percent expect the job market to improve.

Thirty-three percent are very concerned about someone in their household losing their job in the next year. Another 26 percent are somewhat concerned.

About half say their household income is just enough to pay their bills. Thirty-one percent say their income is enough to save and buy extras, while 19 percent say it is not enough to pay the bills.

Americans with the lowest incomes are most concerned about job loss. More than half of those making less than $30,000 are very concerned about losing their jobs, and, even now, nearly half of those in this category say their income is not sufficient to pay their bills.

Sixty-two percent of those surveyed say they are mostly anxious about their retirement savings, compared to just 32 percent who said they felt mostly secure about it.

One in four Americans expects the housing market in their area to get worse, while 17 percent expect it to improve. Fifty-five percent predict it will stay the same.

Fluctuations in the stock market appear to have made Americans more likely to view the market as a risky place to invest. Seventy-nine percent now say it is generally a risky investment - the highest number since CBS News began asking the question in 1998.

Despite this perceived risk, however, more than half of Americans think the stock market will go up in the next year. Among investors, that number rises to 63 percent.

Americans are split of the bailout for the nation's banks and financial industry, with 46 percent approving and 44 percent disapproving. Few believe it has helped the economy so far: Just 16 percent say it has made things better, while 14 percent say it has hurt and two in three say it has made no difference.

Forty-five percent expect the bailout to help in the long term, however.

Despite the grim economic landscape and overwhelmingly negative perceptions of the economy, a separate CBS News poll finds that 75 percent of Americans are optimistic about Barack Obama's presidency.

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,390 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone December 4-8, 2008. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.