Just 26% of Likely U.S. Voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey taken the week ending Sunday, December 5. That’s down three points from last week and back to the level found the week following the midterm elections.
Confidence that the country is moving in the right direction is down to 46% among Democrats from 59% the week before Election Day.
Forty-seven percent (47%) of those in President Obama’s party say the country is on the wrong track. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of Republicans and 75% of voters not affiliated with either political party agree.
Among all voters, confidence in the nation’s current course has been hovering around the 30% mark since last November except for a brief burst of enthusiasm, largely among Democratic voters, just after Congress’ passage of the national health care bill in late March.
Seventy percent (70%) of voters say the country is heading down the wrong track, the highest level found since March. Following passage of the health care bill, this number fell slightly but has since returned to levels found prior to the passage of the bill.
Unemployment Is Top Issue
Unemployment and jobs are the most important issue facing the country now, the poll finds. Fifty percent of those surveyed identified joblessness as their top concern, twice the number who chose the federal budget deficit and government spending.
Members of Obama’s Democratic Party are about evenly split on the question of whether they are doing better than two years ago. Republicans and political independents are more downbeat. More than 60 percent of Republicans say they’re doing worse under Obama. Just over 50 percent of political independents feel that way, compared with a third who say their situation has improved.
Obama, 49, inherited an economy in deep crisis. While it has started to recover — showing 3.2 percent growth over the past year — unemployment has remained high. Joblessness rose to a seven-month high of 9.8 percent in November, significantly above the 7.4 percent rate that prevailed in December 2008, the month before Obama was inaugurated.
Stock Market Gains
The stock market has performed much better. The Standard and Poor’s 500 Index has risen more than 50 percent since Obama was sworn in Jan. 20, 2009.
“After looking at all the politicians and all the policies, they’re not geared toward Americans. They’re geared toward the corporations,” says Ken Cmar, a 45-year-old poll respondent residing in Crystal River, Florida.
He says his business aligning wheels on vehicles has shrunk as trucking companies and municipalities with bus fleets have cut back. “It’s that trickle-down economic thing and I’m at the wrong end,” Cmar says.
By age group, only the young — those under 35, a core constituency for Obama in his presidential bid — consider themselves better off than they were two years ago.
‘Naivete of Youth’
The young often show a greater “sense that things are getting better for them than we see for older respondents,” says J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., a Des Moines, Iowa-based firm that conducted the nationwide survey. “Maybe that is the sweet naivete of youth or, more likely, they are building their careers and things are, in fact, getting better for them.”
While Democrats and political independents agree that unemployment is the top issue, Republicans are about evenly split between jobs and the budget deficit, which totaled $1.29 trillion in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.
“The deficit is outrageous,” says poll respondent Lisa Brandel, a 36-year-old free-lance writer in Bellefontaine, Ohio. “But the root of the problem is that we need more jobs. If we get better employment, more people will be paying taxes and the deficit will go down.”
On the tax cuts, the survey conducted before, during and after the negotiations between the White House and congressional Republicans this week, shows that only a third of Americans support keeping the lower rates for the highest earners.
Another third say they want only the tax cuts for the middle class to be extended, while more than a fourth say all the tax cuts should be allowed to expire Dec. 31, as scheduled.
The agreement Obama announced Dec. 6 would temporarily sustain the tax reductions for all income levels. The president said the compromise was needed to break a deadlock with Republicans who vowed to block tax cuts for middle-income Americans if those for individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples earning more than $250,000 weren’t extended, too.
The Bloomberg National survey of 1,000 U.S. adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.