Confidence is high! Well… at least confidence that the country is in a recession, it seems.

Confidence in the economy is poor, with eight in 10 Americans believing the nation is currently in a recession, according to a new poll on Friday.

Indeed, one-third of those surveyed in a new CNN/ORC poll think that the recession is serious…

The public’s economic outlook has been worse in the past. In September 2009, nearly nine in 10 Americans thought the country was still in a recession. In June 2011, 48 percent of respondents to another CNN/ORC poll said that they feared the country was descending into another Great Depression.

About two-thirds of respondents to Friday’s poll said that the president should focus more on creating jobs, as opposed to deficit reduction.

So are we actually in a recession? By the books, no. The definition of a recession is when the country experiences two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth. That hasn’t happened for a while, even though the growth has been anemic at best. But as is pointed out in the linked article, the general attitude of the public can have a much larger effect on our prospects than any economist’s glossary. People who are fearful about their jobs and their prospects for the future are much more likely to stuff money in their mattress than to go out shopping. This tends to cause the economy to stagnate even more as money fails to change hands and businesses have less reason to hire and/or expand.

Sadly, it’s a self-feeding process. Bad economic news makes headlines far more than good reports. (Nobody writes a story about the plane that lands safely.) When people see these statistics they become worried and even more conservative in their spending habits. It’s going to take a serious breakthrough in a positive direction to improve consumer confidence and turn this around. If you can think of anything that the White House has on the back burner to make that happen, be sure to let me know. I certainly don’t see it.