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Poll: Most think U.S. on wrong track as fears about economy grow

Chart - Direction of the country

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

Nearly three out of four Americans think the country is on the wrong track, the highest percentage since President Obama took office almost three years ago, a new CBS News/New York Times poll released Friday showed.

Just 23 percent think the country is currently headed in the right direction, compared to the 72 percent who think it is on the wrong track.

And more than half -- 53 percent -- think the country is either headed into or already experiencing another recession. About 39 percent say they it is not.

Asked to characterize the state of the U.S. economy, 39 percent of Americans say the economy is fairly bad, and another 47 percent say the economy is very bad - the highest percentage since April 2009.

Just 13 percent say the economy is fairly good and a mere one percent say it is very good.

And the percentage of respondents who think the economy is getting better is just 12 percent, nearly as low as the eight percent who thought it was getting better shortly after Mr. Obama took office. Perhaps more significantly, just three months ago 20 percent of respondents thought the economy was getting better. Forty-three percent think the economy is getting worse, and another 44 percent think it is staying about the same.

As it has since 2008, the economy and jobs remains the most important problem facing the country today according to the public. Now, 59 percent of Americans choose it, placing it far ahead of the budget deficit, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and partisan politics.

While the country struggles with the unemployment rate at just over 9 percent, concern about job loss have also increased. More than six in 10 Americans are at least somewhat concerned that they or someone else in their household will lose their job and be looking for work within the next twelve months, including 38 percent who are very concerned - an increase of seven percentage points since June.

Most Americans do not see relief any time soon. A majority of 58 percent think unemployment will remain high for at least two more years, with 27 percent say it will be high for one year and just 9 percent predicting unemployment lowering significantly within the next six months.

Feelings about the economy have soured Americans views of all their elected leaders. Views of Mr. Obama have dropped, with his approval rating slipping to 43 percent -- his lowest so far in CBS News polls. His disapproval rating has reached an all-time high in this poll of 50 percent.

But at the same time, approval of Congress also now matches its all-time low -- just 12 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing - the same as the lowest percentage recorded in this poll, reached in October 2008, right before the November elections. In addition, Americans disapprove of both parties in Congress with 72 percent disapproving of the job Republicans in Congress are doing, and 63 percent disapproving of the Democrats in Congress.

However, most Americans remain optimistic about America's long-term economic prospects. 64 percent of Americans think the current economic downturn will be temporary; just three in 10 think it is a sign of permanent economic decline. This is a more positive outlook than in June, but more negative than a year ago.

More from the CBS News/NYT poll:

Obama's approval rating drops to all-time low; Public split on jobs plan
Perry leads pack in Republican presidential race
Just 12% happy with Congress
Read the complete poll (PDF)

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,452 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone September 10-15, 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. An oversample of Republicans was also conducted for this poll, for a total of 781 interviews among this group. The results were then weighted in proportion to the average party distributions in previous 2011 CBS News and CBS News/New York Times Polls and in the random sample in this poll. The margin of error for Republicans is plus or minus four percentage points.

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