Poll: Economy, Jobs Top Concerns

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Despite new economic data showing a lower unemployment rate and the recent stock market rebound, the economy and jobs continue to top the list of pressing concerns for the public. Although Americans' views of the state of the economy are more positive than they were a month ago, almost a quarter of Americans have had a personal experience with economic woes, and report that someone in their household has lost a job in the last year.

Although Americans are divided as to how much impact the Bush Administration's economic policies have had on the economy, more blame the President when they perceive a bad economy than give him credit for any perceived improvements.

On the positive side, half the public now says the condition of the economy is good, while 48 percent say it is in bad shape. In October 54 percent said the economy was bad. A slight majority has rated the economy as bad since April.


RATE THE NATIONAL ECONOMY:

Good
Now
50%
10/2003
45%

Bad
Now
48%
10/2003
54%

About a third of Americans now view the economy as improving, compared with 28 percent who said so in October. Nearly one in four still think the economy will get worse, and 42 percent say the economy is staying the same.

THE ECONOMY IS:
Getting Better
Now
34%
10/2003
28%

Getting worse
Now
23%
10/2003
27%

Staying about the same
Now
42%
10/23
43%

THE ECONOMY AND THE PRESIDENT
Increasing numbers see the Bush administration's policies as having a lot to do with the economy's current condition, but Americans are more likely to blame the President for a bad economy than give him credit for any perceived economic recovery.

41 percent say the current economic condition has a lot to do with the policies of the Bush Administration, while 44 percent say the Administration's policies have had only a small impact.

Americans who think the economy is good tend to say that Bush has had only a little to do with it, while a majority of those who say the economy is in bad shape believe the country's economic troubles have a lot to do with the President.

Similarly, those who think the economy is getting better tend to think Bush's policies have had a little impact on the economy; but two out of three of those who believe the economy is getting worse say economic conditions have a lot to do with Bush's policies.

The policies of the Bush administration are still perceived by a majority as benefiting the rich. 63 percent now think the current administration's policies favor the rich, the highest number since CBS News started asking the question in June 2001. 10 percent (about the same as previous polls) now say the administration's policies benefit the poor or the middle class, and 23 percent say all groups are treated the same under the Bush administration's policies.

DO BUSH ADMINISTRATION POLICIES FAVOR…?

The Rich
Now
63%
9/2003
60%
6/2001
57%

The middle class
Now
9%
9/2003
10%
6/2001
8%

The poor
Now
1%
9/2003
1%
6/2001
2%

Treat all the same
Now
23%
9/2003
26%
6/2001
27%

The President's rating on handling the economy has improved somewhat since October, but it still remains low, as it has been for months. Now, 43 percent approve of how he is handling the economy, and 46 percent disapprove.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF THE ECONOMY

Approve
Now
43%
10/2003
41%
4/2003
42%

Disapprove
Now
46%
10/2003
51%
4/2003
45%

The public's evaluation of this president's handling of the economy is much more positive than the evaluations his father received at this point in his presidency. In November 1991, 25 percent approved of the job George H. W. Bush was doing on the economy, and 66 percent disapproved.

Overall, 50 percent of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing as president, and 42 percent disapprove. His current rating ties the lowest rating this poll has recorded for Bush, matching the 50 percent approval rating in August 2001, before the rise in support after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

BUSH'S JOB APPROVAL RATING

Approve
Now
50%
9/2001
89%
8/2001
50%

Disapprove
Now
42%
9/2003
7%
8/2001
38%

THE BIG ISSUE: IT'S STILL THE ECONOMY…
As things stand now, the economy continues to weigh heavily on the public's mind. 24 percent of Americans say someone in their household -- either themselves or someone else -- has lost a job in the past year. Americans with lower incomes are the hardest hit: 36 percent of those with household incomes under $30,000 say someone in their household has lost a job in the past year, compared with 18 percent of those whose household incomes are over $50,000. African Americans are also much more likely than whites to report someone in their household becoming unemployed in the last year.

HAVE YOU OR HAS SOMEONE ELSE IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD LOST A JOB IN THE LAST YEAR?

Yes
All
24%
Income 36%
Income>50K
18%
Whites
20%
Blacks
34%

No
All
76%
Income 65%
Income >50K
82%
Whites
80%
Blacks
65%

Overall, 29 percent of Americans name the economy and jobs as the most important problem facing the U.S. today, more than the number who mention the war in Iraq, although the latter has doubled with the rise in casualties there since September. 9 percent say terrorism is their top concern, followed by education (4 percent) and foreign policy (3 percent).

MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM FOR THE COUNTRY:

Economy/Jobs
Now
29%
9/2003
32%

War with Iraq
Now
18%
9/2003
9%

Terrorism
Now
9%
9/2003
8%

Education
Now
4%
9/2003
4%

Foreign Policy
Now
3%
9/2003
3%

In addition, a majority of Americans sees the U.S. as being on the wrong track, unchanged since September. As has been the case for some time now, those who view the economy positively are more likely to view the country as going in the right direction, while those who think the economy is in bad shape overwhelmingly believe the U.S. has seriously gotten off on the wrong track.



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1,000 adults interviewed by telephone November 10-12, 2003. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample.

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

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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