Poll: Just 1 in 5 Americans happy with direction of country

Turmoil returned to the markets as the Dow plunged more than 400 points. CBS News senior business correspondent Anthony Mason explains what sent investors running.

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

Just one in five Americans think the United States is headed on the right track, while about 73 percent think it is going off track, the lowest percentage of Americans who are happy with the direction of the country since President Obama took office in 2009, according to a new poll from CBS News.

The 19 percent who are satisfied with the direction of the economy is down from 23 percent in September and 13 points lower than the 32 percent who thought it was headed in the right direction a year ago.

A big factor for that may be the economy. Nearly nine of ten Americans think the U.S. economy is in "bad" shape--88 percent, while just one of ten thinks the economy is in "good" shape, the poll found. That compares to 14 percent and 86 percent last month and a 26/74 split in January.

About 54 percent think the state of the economy is the nation's most important problem, while just six percent of Americans see the growing budget deficit as the most important issue facing the United States.

And two-thirds of Americans are worried about job loss. About 36 percent are "very" concerned they or someone in their household will lose their job in the next year, while another 30 percent are "somewhat" concerned about possible job loss.

The Labor Department releases its monthly employment figures on Friday and a Bloomberg survey said economists expect just 50,000 jobs were added in September and the unemployment rate stayed at 9.1 percent for the third straight month.

About four of five Americans said the weak economy has affected them personally, with just 20 percent telling the pollsters it has had no effect on their lives.

About 34 percent said the economic downturn had caused a hardship with major life changes while another 46 percent said life was more difficult but did not rise to the level of a major life change.

More from the poll:

Poll: Most want taxes on millionaires increased
Poll: Views of Congress (again) hit new low
Poll: 7 in 10 say Obama has not helped economy
Poll: Nearly 2 in 3 want troops in Afghanistan decreased
Poll: Half of U.S. says Afghan war not a success
Read the complete poll (PDF)


This poll was conducted by telephone from September 28-October 2, 2011 among 1,012 adults nationwide. Phone numbers were dialed from 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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    CBSNews.com Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.

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