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Americans feel positive about the economy, but worried about U.S. direction - CBS News poll

By Fred Backus and Jennifer De Pinto

Americans are feeling the most positive about the state of the nation's economy heading into a midterm election than they have since 1998. Still, a majority continue to say the country is off on the wrong track. Three in four disapprove of the job Congress is doing, and most view both political parties negatively. More than half continue to disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president.  

Seven in 10 of Americans say the economy is in good shape; the public's most positive evaluation heading into a midterm election in decades.  And 42 percent of Americans think the economy is improving. Among those who feel that way, most are confident that it will continue to improve in the long run.

Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats say the economy is good, although Republicans feel especially positive.

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As they have for years, a majority of Americans (58 percent) say the country is off on the wrong track. Unlike opinions of the economy, these views divide starkly along partisan lines: most Republicans feel the country is headed in the right direction, but most Democrats don't.

Americans who think the country is off on the wrong track are basing that view on factors other than the economy.  More than half (55 percent) say the state of politics and how the government is functioning is the main reason.  About a third say it's the culture and values that they see in society today.

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For those who feel the country is headed in the right direction, it is about the economy.

About three in four cite the state of the economy and their own finances as the main reason they feel good about where the country is headed.

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Heading into the midterm elections, 42 percent of voters nationwide approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as president. His approval is a bit lower, at 39 percent among Americans overall. Opinions of the country's direction are tied to views of President Trump: Those who like where the country's headed approve of the job he's doing, and those who are concerned about the country's direction doing disapprove.

Of the issues asked about in the poll, the president gets his highest approval rating from voters on handling the economy (52 percent), and his lowest ratings on immigration (39 percent) and his handling of Brett Kavanaugh's nomination (41 percent).

The President's overall approval rating is higher than Congress' -- as is typically the case. Congress has just a 17 percent approval rating among registered voters, not much changed from earlier this year. Majorities of Republicans and Democrats disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job.

And most voters hold negative views of both major political parties. Majorities of Republicans and Democrats have favorable views of their own party, but Democrats (22 percent) are twice as likely as Republicans (11 percent) to have an unfavorable view of their own party.

While both parties are viewed negatively, more voters would prefer the Democrats win control (51 percent) of Congress than the Republicans keep it (42 percent). Three percent of voters say it doesn't matter.


This poll was conducted by telephone October 14-17, 2018 among a random sample of 1,108 adults nationwide.  Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Glen Mills, PA.  Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.

The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone.

Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers. The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables.

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly.

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

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