Poll: Americans Say Bad Economy Will Linger

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.

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A majority of Americans have a negative impression of the economy and expect the effects of the recession to linger for years, according to a new CBS News poll.

Most also say President Obama has spent too little time on the economy, which Americans cite as the country's most important problem by a wide margin.

Three in four Americans now say the effects of the recession will last another two years or more. More than eight in 10 say the condition of the economy is bad, up five points from last month.

Just 25 percent of Americans say the economy is getting better - down from 41 percent in April. About half say it is staying the same, and the remaining quarter say it is getting worse.

More than half of Americans - 52 percent - say Mr. Obama has spent too little time dealing with the economy.

And with unemployment near 10 percent, the economy is their priority: Thirty-eight percent volunteer it as the country's most important problem. That far outpaces the percentage that cited the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan (seven percent), health care (six percent), the deficit (five percent), and the oil spill in the Gulf (five percent).

The county's most important economic problem, Americans say, is jobs, volunteered by 38 percent of respondents. Coming in a distant second was the national debt, the deficit and spending, cited by 10 percent in the poll, which was conducted between July 9th and 12th.

Just 27 percent of Americans say their local job market is good. Seventy-one percent call it bad. Nearly one in four expect their household finances to get worse over the next year, twice the percentage that expects their finances to improve.

Only 13 percent of Americans say Mr. Obama's economic programs, among them the stimulus package, have helped them personally. Twenty-three percent say they have hurt, while 63 percent say they have had no effect.

Twenty-three percent say the stimulus package made the economy better - down from 32 percent in April and 36 percent last September. Eighteen percent say the stimulus package damaged the economy, while 56 percent say it had no effect.

The president's job approval rating on the economy now stands at 40 percent - a drop of five points from last month. Fifty-four percent disapprove of his handling of the issue.

In general, Americans see Mr. Obama as spending too little time on the economy and the oil spill in the Gulf, and too much time on health care: Thirty-nine percent say he has spent too much time on the issue, while 24 percent say he spent too little time.

Americans do believe the president takes decisive action, with two and three suggesting he does. But more than half (53 percent) say he is not tough enough in his approach.

Americans are evenly split, meanwhile, on whether the president shares their priorities. Two in three believe he cares at least to some degree about people like them.

The president's overall approval rating now stands at 44 percent, matching his disapproval rating. It stood at 47 percent last month.

The Issues: Economic Priorities

Most Americans - 53 percent - say the best way to get the economy moving is to cut taxes. Thirty-seven percent instead choose government spending on job creation.

Americans are split about how the federal government should spend its money: Forty-six percent say the priority should be spending to create jobs, and 47 percent want to put the focus on deficit reduction.

More than half want Congress to extend unemployment benefits now, a Democratic priority that has been blocked by Congressional Republicans.

Immigration:

Support for Arizona's controversial immigration measure has increased: Fifty-seven percent say the law is "about right," up five points from May. Just 23 percent say the law goes too far, while 17 percent say it doesn't go far enough.

More than half say states should be allowed to pass illegal immigration laws, while 42 percent say only the federal government should have that power.

Americans are somewhat split on the impact of illegal immigrants: 42 percent say they take jobs away from Americans, while more - 50 percent - say they take jobs Americans don't want.

Health Care:

Americans still largely disapprove more than they approve of Mr. Obama's sweeping health care reforms. Forty-nine percent of Americans disapprove of the health reform legislation, while 36 percent support the law. Support has dropped seven points since May.

The Oil Spill:

Americans are roughly evenly split on whether BP will stop the flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico by the end of the summer. Most (58 percent) are not confident that the company will fairly compensate those affected by the spill.

Wall Street Reform:

With Democrats poised to pass sweeping reforms of Wall Street this week, a majority (57 percent) say bank regulations should be increased.

Afghanistan and Iraq:

Sixty-two percent of Americans say things are going badly for the United States in Afghanistan, up from 49 percent in May. Just 31 percent say things are going well.

In Iraq, 55 percent say things are going well, while 28 percent say things are going badly.

Most Americans favor a timetable for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Fifty-four percent back a timetable, while 41 percent oppose one. Mr. Obama has said the United States will start removing troops from the country in July of next year, but only if conditions on the ground permit.

Elena Kagan:

Most Americans can't say whether Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan should be confirmed. Among those who have an opinion, 21 percent say yes and 19 percent say no. Less than half say they are closely following news about her nomination.

The Long Run:

Despite their concerns about the economy, Americans do not believe their country is on the decline. Fifty-nine percent expect things to get better in the long run, while 36 percent say America's best days have passed.

Read the Complete Poll

More from the poll:

Poll: Support For Health Care Reform Drops

Poll: Most Want Afghanistan Withdrawal Timeline

Poll: Support for Arizona Immigration Law Hits 57 Percent

Obama's Approval Rating on Economy Drops


This poll was conducted among a random sample of 966 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone July 9-12, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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