Who's #1? Intriguing poll results

We do much on this blog and at our parent Daily Reckoning site to chronicle the slow, inexorable decline of the U.S. Empire, but a new poll shows perceptions are racing ahead of reality.

A few days ago, Gallup asked 1000 Americans this question:   "Which one of the following do you think is the leading economic power in the world today?"  A list of five countries plus the European Union followed.

When Gallup posed this same question in 2000, a solid majority (65%) of those polled replied the United States.

Now a plurality — 40% — say it's China.  Another 33% say it's the United States.

The reality is quite different.  Measured in nominal GDP,  the EU just edges out the United States, followed by Japan, EU member Germany, and then China.  If you prefer the purchasing power parity measure of GDP, the top two slots remain unchanged, but China moves up to #3.  Depending on who's doing the measuring, China's GDP remains barely half that of the United States.

Of course, raw GDP stats don't tell the whole story — like what percentage of GDP comprises consumer spending — but it's interesting that in early 2008, Americans actually exaggerate the erosion of its status as world economic power.  I leave it to you in the comments section to speculate why.