Americans are more pessimistic about the nation’s economic outlook and overall direction than they have been at any time since President Obama’s first two months in office in 2009, the NY Times reports.
According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, there appears to be an abrupt change in attitude, with most Americans thinking that the economy is getting worse (the number of Americans who think so has jumped 13 percentage points in just one month.)
Amid rising gas prices, stubborn unemployment and a cacophonous debate in Washington over the federal government’s ability to meet its future obligations, the poll presents stark evidence that the slow, if unsteady, gains in public confidence earlier this year that a recovery was under way are now all but gone.
The poll found that the public mood is dragging down ratings for both parties in Congress and for President Obama. After the first 100 days of divided government, and a new Republican leadership controlling the House of Representatives, 75 percent of respondents disapproved of the way Congress is handling its job.
Disapproval of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy has never been broader — at 57 percent of Americans — a warning sign as he begins to set his sights on re-election in 2012. And a similar percentage disapprove of how Mr. Obama is handling the federal budget deficit, though more disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are.
Still, for all the talk from Congressional Republicans and Mr. Obama of cutting the deficit as a way to improve the economy, only 29 percent of respondents said it would create more jobs. Twenty-seven percent said it would have no effect on the employment outlook, and 29 percent said it would cost jobs.
Mr. Obama has considerable support for his proposal to end tax cuts for those households earning $250,000 a year and more: 72 percent of respondents approved of doing so as a way to address the deficit.
And, in what he can take as a positive sign for his argument the nation has a duty to protect its most vulnerable citizens, about three-quarters of Americans polled think the federal government has a responsibility to provide health care for the elderly, and 56 percent believe it has a similar duty to the poor.
Slightly more Americans now approve than disapprove of a proposal by Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin to change Medicare from a program that pays doctors and hospitals directly for treating older people to one in which the government helps such patients pay for private plans.
Given the choice of cutting military, Social Security or Medicare spending as a way to reduce the overall budget, 45 percent chose military cuts, compared with those to Social Security (17 percent) or Medicare (21 percent.)
For the most part, Americans split sharply along party lines when it comes to whom they trust most on the deficit, Medicare and Social Security.
But with 70 percent of poll respondents saying that the country was heading in the wrong direction, the public was not exhibiting warm feelings toward officeholders of either party.
Most Americans think neither Mr. Obama nor the Congressional Republicans share their priorities for the country. Mr. Obama’s job approval remains below a majority, with 46 percent saying they approve of his performance in office, while 45 percent do not.
Republicans have their own challenges. More than half of poll respondents, 56 percent, said they did not have a favorable view of the party, as opposed to 37 percent who said they did.
“They’re saying it will get better, but it’s not,” Frank Tufenkdjian, a Republican of Bayville, N.Y., said in a follow-up interview. “I know so many people who are unemployed and can’t find a job.”
The nationwide telephone survey was conducted Friday through Wednesday with 1,224 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. [via NY Times]