Poll: Public feels more pessimistic about health of economy

More Americans are adopting a grim view of the future of the U.S. economy, according to a new poll.

Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed expect the economy to get worse in the next year, according to a new CNBC All-American Economic Survey poll. That represents a 15-point gain from a December sampling, and is 5 points shy of the survey's all-time pessimism high — recorded during the last gas price spike of June 2008.

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Much of the negativity seems to be driven by concern about rising food and fuel costs. Respondents on average expect prices to rise 6.6 percent over the next 12 months, more than double the 3 percent anticipated in the December poll.

Of the 800 people surveyed, 75 percent reported seeing food prices increase in the last six months, with 61 percent expecting those prices to stay elevated for over a year.

To deal with the rising prices, 60 percent said they are cutting back on either saving, traveling or driving, with 70 percent cutting back on nonessential spending at restaurants, movies and concerts.

Exacerbating price anxiety is the general belief that wages will not keep up with prices. On average, those polled expect their pay to decline by 1.1 percent, with less than a third anticipating pay increases in the next 12 months.

Nearly half of those surveyed said they know someone who either has been foreclosed on or is facing the looming prospect of a foreclosure. The continued struggles facing the nation's housing has made the prospect of owning a home less appealing, as just 63 percent believe it is better to own a home than rent — compared to 89 percent who felt that way when surveyed by Fannie Mae in 1996.

However, Americans still generally hold homeownership as a key part of the American dream, with 73 percent agreeing it is an essential component.