In a sign of increasing pessimism about the direction of the U.S. economy, roughly four in ten Americans now believes it is in permanent decline, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.
The percentage that sees the economy as in permanent decline has increased from 28 percent in October 2010 to 39 percent in the new poll. And the percentage that expects the economy to eventually recover to its past heights has fallen from 68 percent last October to 57 percent today.
That's not the only finding signaling that Americans have a negative outlook about their economic future. Only 20 percent now say the economy is getting better, the lowest number since last August. Thirty-one percent say it is getting worse. Roughly half stay it is staying the same.
Americans overwhelmingly cite the economy and jobs as their top concern, with 53 percent identifying it as the most important issue facing the economy. (The second place issue, the budget deficit, was cited by just 7 percent.) But just 15 percent say Washington is paying a lot of attention to improving the economy. Forty-five percent say the federal government is paying little-to-no attention to the economy.
Asked if the federal government should spend money to create jobs, a slim majority - 52 percent - said no, it should focus on lowering the debt. Forty-two percent said the government should spend to create jobs, even if has to borrow money to do so. Three in four Republicans said no, while three in five Democrats said yes.
Americans are split on whether unemployment benefits should be extended, with 47 percent saying yes - even if it increases the federal budget deficit - and 44 percent saying no. Most Democrats said yes while most Republicans said no.
Americans continue to be at least somewhat concerned that someone in their household could be out of work in the next year, including 31 percent who are very concerned.
Pollsters also asked parents with children between ages 13 and 22 if economic changes have changed their educational plans for their child. Thirty-seven percent said the type of college they can afford has changed; 23 percent said economic conditions have caused them to delay or decide against college for their children.
More from the poll:
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This poll was conducted among a random sample of 979 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone June 24-28, 2011. 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.