Economy, Jobs Dominate Voters' Minds

Nearly half of registered voters say "the economy and jobs" is the most important issue in their decision about whom to support for president, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds.

Forty-eight percent of these voters cited "the economy and jobs," an increase of eight points from one month ago. That's more than 30 percentage points higher than the second most cited issue, "terrorism and national security," cited by 14 percent of registered voters. Another ten percent pointed to "gas prices and energy," while an equal number pointed to health care. Just 8 percent of registered voters cited the war in Iraq.

The poll was conducted between September 12th and 16th, a period of days that was witness to the collapse of Lehman Brothers - the largest bankruptcy in the history of the country - followed by the largest one-day stock market plunge in seven years.

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Americans have a slightly more optimistic view of the economy than they did a month ago, but they remain extremely pessimistic. Only 22 percent of Americans say the condition of the national economy is even somewhat good, and six in 10 think the economy is getting worse, not better. About a third of all Americans say they are worse off now than four years ago, and one in five say they are falling behind financially.

Barack Obama rates slightly higher than John McCain in voter confidence in handling the economy, though most voters are at least somewhat confident in both candidates. Sixty percent of voters are very or somewhat confident in Obama's ability to handle the economy, while 53 percent say the same of McCain. Forty-six percent say they are not too confident or not at all confident in McCain, while 39 percent have that opinion of Obama.

Thirty-nine percent of Americans describe the state of the economy as "very bad," down two points from August. Sixty-one percent say it is getting worse, up three points from two months ago.

One in three Americans says their family's financial situation is worse than it was four years ago. Twenty-nine percent say their family's financial situation has improved, while 36 percent say it hasn't changed.

Thirty-seven percent of Americans say they are making enough to save or buy extras. But 44 percent are making just enough to get by, and 17 percent say they are not making enough to pay their bills and meet their other financial obligations.

The unemployment rate has risen steadily over the past year and a half, and in August it rose above 6 percent for the first time in five years. Twenty-nine percent of Americans say that someone in their household has been out of work and looking for a job at some point within the last twelve months. This percentage has been generally consistent over the past twenty-five years during periods of recession and economic hard times.

One in five say they are very concerned that someone in their household will be out of work in the next twelve months, and another one in four are somewhat concerned. More than half are not concerned at all.

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This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1133 adults nationwide, including 1004 registered voters, interviewed by telephone September 12-16, 2008. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample and registered voters could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.
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