A Research New Zealand poll found fewer New Zealanders felt their financial situation was worse than at the same time last year.
A total of 49 per cent of respondents believed their situation was worse, compared with 56 per cent of people who were asked the same question last year.
Thirty-two per cent of people felt their situation had not changed in the past year, compared with 18 per cent last year.
Director Emanuel Kalafatelis said: "While the recession is biting for about half of New Zealanders, the negative effects of the recession may have peaked for now for others."
The results reflected New Zealanders' change in attitude in the past six to nine months.
"We know people have been making adjustments, such as cutting out non-essential spending. These people will be feeling they can weather the situation better than at the beginning of the recession.
"There are also many people in the workforce who have not experienced a major recession.
"They have nothing to compare it to. So they may stop and think, 'If it has not affected me yet, is it likely to? Where is this recession?'"
People had probably not accurately measured their financial situation, and their feelings about the recession were likely to have been influenced by warnings of an economic downturn.
"I don't think people have got a ruler out and compared their bank statements with how they were a year ago. This [survey] is a reflection of mood, and what we're seeing is fewer people feeling bad about their situation."
Further evidence that the effect of the recession may be slowing was the drop in the number of people who believed the state of the economy was hurting their financial situation.
The poll found that 71 per cent of people felt the downturn was hurting their financial situation, compared with 90 per cent in September.
Mr Kalafatelis said Research New Zealand would be keenly awaiting the results of the next survey to measure whether the slight improvement in New Zealanders' sentiment was a fleeting one.
The poll surveyed 500 people aged 15 and over. It was date-weighted to ensure it was an accurate representation of the general population.