Poll Finds Widespread Pessimism About U.S.

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Across the country, there is widespread pessimism about Congress, the economic bailout plan, and the direction of the country, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds.

Nearly nine in ten Americans - a record high - now believe the country is on the wrong track, surpassing the high of 83 percent reached in May. Just 7 percent say the country is headed in the right direction.

Approval of Congress, meanwhile, is at a record low. Just 12 percent now approve of the job Congress is doing, and for the first time in 30 years, fewer than half approves of the job their own representative is doing. President Bush's overall approval rating stands at 24 percent, close to its all-time low.

Read The Complete CBS News/NY Times Poll On The Economy
Americans disapprove of the $700 billion economic bailout bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush earlier this month by a nearly two-to-one margin. Just 28 percent approve of the bailout plan, down three points from last week. A majority - 53 percent - disapprove, while 19 percent say they don't know.

Americans have low expectations for the plan. Only about one in three believes the bill will be effective, while a slightly higher percentage - 38 percent - believe it will have no impact. Fifteen percent believe it will make things worse.

And they continue to believe that the bailout plan will aid a few big investors and people on Wall Street, not the whole country. Sixty-three percent say the plan will just benefit Wall Street, up from 54 percent when the plan was first proposed about two weeks ago. Just 28 percent believe it will benefit homeowners and people across the country.

While a majority of Americans support the notion of the federal government offering to help homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages, support has waned. Early in October, six in 10 Americans approved of that idea. Support has dropped to about half now, and 38 percent disapprove. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to support the idea.

Perceptions of the nation's economy - which 57 percent of voters say is the most important issue in deciding whom to support for president - are extremely negative. Zero percent of Americans describe the condition of the economy as "very good," and just 11 percent call it "somewhat good." Thirty-eight percent describe it as "fairly bad," while half describe it as "very bad."

Two-thirds expect the economy to get worse, a slight improvement from last week, when three in four said as much. Just 5 percent believe the economy is improving.

Disapproval of the bailout plan appears to have taken a toll on public opinion of Congress. Now only 12 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job, another record low following the 15 percent approval rating recorded last week. A record 74 percent of Americans disapprove, including large majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike.

Americans have historically been more likely to approve of their own representative in Congress than of Congress as a whole, and they still do. But the percentage of Americans who approve of the job their representative is doing - now 43 percent - has dipped below 50 percent for the first time since the question was first asked over 30 years ago. Thirty-one percent disapprove of their representative's performance.

Mr. Bush's approval rating on the economy, at 18 percent, is lower than his overall 24 percent approval rating. And Americans' faith in government has diminished. Nearly three in four now trust the government to do the right thing only some of the time; about one in ten volunteers that they can never trust Washington to do what is right.

The last time public trust in government was this low was in late 1994 and early 1995 -- around the time of the Republican takeover of Congress and the shutdown of the government after an impasse over the federal budget.

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,070 adults nationwide, including 972 registered voters, interviewed by telephone October 10-13, 2008. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample and the sample of registered voters could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.