Chief marketing officers at companies large and small across the U.S. are not optimistic about any rebound in the economy over the next year, says a new survey from Duke University.

With GDP growth at around 2 percent or less and national employment above 8 percent, the survey results offer little hope for a surge of economic growth.

The results, released Wednesday, “ain’t pretty,” says Christine Moorman, Director of The CMO Survey and a professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.

Also, for the first time in the CMO survey, Moorman pointed out that “pessimists, optimists, and the ‘no change’ group are nearly equal, indicating a great deal of uncertainty and no strong consensus about the direction of the economy.” The survey launched in 2008.

Based on the survey findings, Moorman predicted that “the lack of clear signal in the recovery is more likely to mean that companies and customers will hunker down a bit longer.”

A survey of 528 marketers conducted between July 17 and Aug. 3 produced an overall score of 58.4 on a 0-100 scale with 100 being the most optimistic. The total was a five-point drop from the previous survey in February of 63.4, which was the best since the 2008 recession.

Most pessimistic are CMOs at large businesses and those that focus on business-to-business transactions, Moorman reported.

“The greatest pessimism lies among business-to-business companies which dropped from an overall optimism score in February 2012 of 60.2 to a low of 53.6 in August,” Moorman wrote in the report. “Business-to-consumer companies also decreased, but only from 63.8 to 61.5.”

Among businesses with $10 billion or more in sales, optimism ranked lowest.

So what is going on?

“This is not just a macroeconomic swing based on interest rates or unexpected international events,” Moorman said.

“Instead, CMOs expect key customer metrics to decrease in the next 12 months, including purchase volume, purchase of related products and services, retention, and new customers entering the market.

“Customers are expected to be more focused on price, thereby exerting pressure on companies to drive down the prices of products and services.

“To make matters worse, CMOs expect competition to increase, including a larger number and more rivalry among competitors. Softer interest from customers and more intense competition for these customer dollars are the likely causes of this pessimism.”