Americans Are In A Gloomy Mood

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Despite the recent rebounds in the stock market, public confidence in the nation's economy continues to erode, and the country's mood is now decidedly negative, a new CBS News poll finds.

Since the end of last year, the percentage describing the economy as being in good condition has declined 25 points, and two thirds of Americans think the United States is either in an economic recession or near to one. Fifty-eight percent say things in this country have seriously gotten off on the wrong track, and 37 percent say things are going in the right direction.

Two years ago, more Americans thought the country was going in the right direction than thought it was on the wrong track.

The public's views on all these issues are closely related. Those who think the economy is in good shape are more likely to say things are going in the right direction, while those who think the economy is bad view the country's direction negatively by 78 percent to 17 percent.

Although Americans are still positive about the condition of the economy, the number of people holding a negative view has grown even since the last CBS News poll, conducted earlier this month. In this poll, 61 percent of Americans say the economy is very good or fairly good, while 36 percent say it is fairly bad or very bad. This represents a continued decline from just three weeks ago, and a twenty-five-point drop since last December.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
STATE OF THE ECONOMY

 Now4/013/0112/00
Good

61%

68%

74%

86%


 Now4/013/0112/00
Bad

36%

30%

24%

13%

CBSNEWS Polls

Looking ahead, Americans expect that things won't improve. Nearly half of Americans – 48 percent - now think that the economy is getting worse, while 41 percent think the economy is staying the same, and only 9 percent think it is getting better. In fact, although 52 percent of the public says the U.S. is not in an economic recession now – 42 percent say we already are in a recession - nearly half of them say we are near to one.


THE ECONOMY AND THE PRESIDENTS

Whether good or bad, the state of the economy is viewed as more the responsibility of the Clinton administration's policies than of those of the fledgling Bush administration.

In this poll, 46 percent say the economy's current condition has a lot to do with the economic policies of the Clinton administration; only 18 percent say it has a lot to do with President George W. Bush's policies. And while 48 percent say current economic conditions have only a little or nothing to do with the Clinton administration, 74 percent say that of the Bush administration.

However, those who say the economy is in bad shape seem more willing to blame Bush than those who say it's in good shape are willing to credit him. Fourteen percent of those who say the economy is in good shape say the Bush administration has a lot to do with that, while nearly twice as many (26 percent) who say the economy is in bad shape give it a lot of blame.

But party affiliation may be more important to the difference in evaluating Bush's and Clinton's roles in shaping this economy. A majority of Republicans say the current state of the economy has a lot to do with the Clinton administration, while a majority of Democrats say it has only a little or nothing to do with the administration of the former president. Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to say the state of the economy has a lot to do with the economic policies of Bush's administration, although a majority of them still don't believe the current administration has affected the economy much.

Even though most of those concerned about the economy don't blae the president, their current evaluations of Bush's management of the economy and the expectations for what he can do are decidedly mixed. Just 44 percent now approve of Bush's handling of the economy, while 39 percent disapprove - the lowest rating George W. Bush has received on this question so far.

A bare majority – 51 percent - thinks Bush will be able to ensure a strong economy, while 42 percent say he will not be able to. As would be expected, there are partisan divisions - about three quarters of Republicans have confidence that George W. Bush will be able to make sure that the economy remains strong, while 60 percent of Democrats say he will not be able to.


THE STOCK MARKET

Evaluations of the stock market have improved somewhat in the past three weeks. Now, 49 percent rate the overall condition of the stock market as excellent or good; 39 percent say it is bad. Three weeks ago, a majority said the stock market was in bad shape. Sixty percent think the stock market will go up in the next year or so.

These views, though not as optimistic as they were at the beginning of the year (60 percent thought the overall condition of the stock market was excellent or good), are more positive than those seen earlier this month, when over half of the public said the stock market was in bad condition after a series of market downturns.

Investors, perhaps encouraged by the recent stock market gains, are more positive about the stock market's current condition as well as its direction. 50 percent of investors say the overall condition of the stock market now is good (compared to 35 percent who said so just three weeks ago), and 69 percent think the stock market will go up in the near future.

This poll was conducted among a nationwide sample of 921 adults, interviewed by telephone April 23-25, 2001. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample.size>

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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