CBS Poll: 81% Say U.S. On Wrong Track

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Americans' views on the economy and the general state of the country have hit an all-time low in the history of the CBS News/New York Times poll. Eighty-one percent of those polled say the country is on the wrong track, while only 14 percent believe it is heading in the right direction.

Asked to compare the state of the country to how it was five years ago, 78 percent say things are worse today - the highest percentage since CBS News began asking the question in 1986. Only four percent say things are better now.

Complete CBS News Polls:
The Economy And State Of The Country
Campaign '08 And Economy
Race Relations In America
The outlook on the economy is as bleak as views on the state of the country as a whole. Just 21 percent say the economy is in good shape - the lowest percentage recorded since October of 1992. That number is down from January of this year, when 38 percent said the economy was in good shape.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday that a recession is possible, but 66 percent of those polled say the country is already in a recession - a number that is unchanged from two weeks ago.

In light of those views, it is no surprise that the economy and jobs remains the top concern for Americans - 37 percent of whom name it as such - while the war in Iraq is the top concern for 15 percent of those polled.

As which economic problem facing the country is most important, 21 percent say it is gas and oil prices, while 14 percent named housing and the home mortgage crises. Eleven percent say the most important economic problem is jobs.

Despite rampant worries about the economy and concerns about the home mortgage crisis, Americans are relatively satisfied with their own financial status. Seventy-two percent rate their financial situation as at least somewhat good. But this number is down six points from February, and only nine percent of Americans say their financial situation is very good, which is down nine points in the last few weeks.

Most Americans admit that the state of the economy has taken a personal toll. Seventy-nine percent say they have had to make cutbacks in their daily spending in recent years, although only 28 percent say those cutbacks have been severe.

Although seven in ten Americans say the economy is getting worse, they are cautiously optimistic about its long-term future. Nearly half of Americans with families say they believe their children's standard of living will be better than their own. Twenty eight percent say they believe it will decline and 24 percent think it will be about the same as their own. Sixty-two percent of Americans think their standard of living is better than that of their parents when they were the same age.

Americans' negative views on the economy are taking a toll on evaluations of how President Bush is handling the issue. Only 21 percent of Americans now approve of the president's handling of the economy - his lowest rating to date. Mr. Bush's overall job approval rating stands at 28 percent.

The Campaign

The Democratic presidential race continues to be tight nationally, with Barack Obama maintaining a narrow lead. Among Democratic primary voters who have already participated in a Democratic primary held this year, or still plan to, Obama leads Hillary Clinton 46 percent to 43 percent. Those numbers are unchanged from a month ago.

Expectations that Obama will become the nominee have grown in the last two weeks, with 69 percent of Democratic voters now saying they expect him to defeat Clinton - up from 55 percent in mid-March.

Democratic primary voters view Obama as the more electable candidate. Fifty-six percent think he is better positioned to beat John McCain in November, while only 32 percent think Clinton is.