A new New York Times/CBS News poll has bad news for the White House and also businesses that hoped Americans would be less gloomy about the economy and open their wallets more than they have: the nation’s mood is the most pessimistic in two years.
Americans are more pessimistic about the nation’s economic outlook and overall direction than they have been at any time since President Obama’s first two months in office, when the country was still officially ensnared in the Great Recession, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
Amid rising gas prices, stubborn unemployment and a cacophonous debate in Washington over the federal government’s ability to meet its future obligations, the poll presents stark evidence that the slow, if unsteady, gains in public confidence earlier this year that a recovery was under way are now all but gone.
Capturing what appears to be an abrupt change in attitude, the survey shows that the number of Americans who think the economy is getting worse has jumped 13 percentage points in just one month. Though there have been encouraging signs of renewed growth since last fall, many economists are having second thoughts, warning that the pace of expansion might not be fast enough to create significant numbers of new jobs.
And the polls finds that most Americans seemingly want to say “a pox on both your houses” to Barack Obama and the Congress:
After the first 100 days of divided government, and a new Republican leadership controlling the House of Representatives, 75 percent of respondents disapproved of the way Congress is handling its job.
Disapproval of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy has never been broader — at 57 percent of Americans — a warning sign as he begins to set his sights on re-election in 2012. And a similar percentage disapprove of how Mr. Obama is handling the federal budget deficit, though more disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are.
Still, for all the talk from Congressional Republicans and Mr. Obama of cutting the deficit as a way to improve the economy, only 29 percent of respondents said it would create more jobs. Twenty-seven percent said it would have no effect on the employment outlook, and 29 percent said it would cost jobs.
When it comes to cutting the deficit and the costs of the nation’s costliest entitlement programs, the poll found conflicting and sometimes contradictory views, with hints of encouragement and peril for both parties.
Meanwhile, Gallup finds that Congress’ approval rating is close to a new all time low:
Congress’s approval rating stands at just 17 percent and is hovering near its all-time low, according to new Gallup numbers released Thursday.
The rating is largely unchanged from last month, when Gallup measured 18 percent approval for the current Congress, but it marks a drop of six points from the high-water mark for 2011 — 23 percent approval back in February.
The 17 percent approval rating is the lowest Gallup has measured in the month of April for a new Congress since it began tracking the trend monthly after the 1994 midterm elections. The rating is also just 4 percentage points above Congress’s all-time low of 13 percent, measured in December of 2010.
“The probability of a significant improvement in congressional approval in the months ahead is not high,” wrote Gallup’s Frank Newport. “Congress is now engaged in a highly contentious battle over the federal budget, with a controversial vote on the federal debt ceiling forthcoming in the next several months.”
It’s worth noting that the survey was in the field as congressional leaders and the White House brought the nation to the brink of a government shutdown.
The poll actually found that a higher percentage of Democrats approve of the job the current Congress is doing than do Republicans or independents. Twenty-one percent of Democrats approve, compared to just 15 percent of Republicans and 15 percent of independents.
Basically, it sounds as if voters are tired of politicians playing typical political games and politicians have responded with…typical political games.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.