Economic fears are weighing heavily on Americans, with a large majority saying the US is on the wrong track and nearly half believing the worst is yet to come, a Reuters/Ipsos poll said on Wednesday.
The poll reflected growing anxiety about the US economy and frustration with Washington after a narrowly averted government default last week, a credit rating downgrade by Standard & Poor’s, a stock market dive and a stubbornly high 9.1 percent jobless rate.
US President Barack Obama came out bruised but relatively intact from the brutal, weeks-long debt debate. His approval rating dropped to 45 percent from 49 percent from a month ago, according to the poll conducted from Thursday to Monday.
However, negative views on the economy are worrisome signs as he looks ahead to his re-election bid next year.
The poll found 73 percent of Americans believe the US is “off on the wrong track,” and just one in five, 21 percent, think the country is headed in the right direction.
The level of discontent is the highest since Reuters/Ipsos began polling US public opinion in February 2009.
To review the poll results, go to www.ipsos-na.com/news-polls/pressrelease.aspx?id=5301.
The survey of 1,055 adults found that 47 percent believe “the worst is yet to come” in the US economy, an increase of 13 percentage points from a year ago when this question was last raised.
This is the highest measure since March 2009, when concern peaked at 57 percent, at the height of the recession. Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said it reflected “a general sense of unease.”
“A difficult economic situation will create a difficult situation for the president when it comes to re-election a year from now,” she said. “When the economy is bad, people look for a change.”
Republicans appear to be suffering the most from the last-minute debt deal last week that was reached only after anguished negotiations between Obama and congressional leaders.
The survey found 49 percent of Americans held a negative view of Republicans after the deal was reached and 42 percent held a negative opinion of the conservative Tea Party movement. Tea Party conservatives stuck closely to their demand that deficit reduction be handled solely through spending cuts and were willing to risk a default to achieve their aims.
By contrast, 40 percent of those polled saw Democrats in a negative light.
“Coming out of this, the Republicans are I think taking the balance of the blame for the debt deal negotiations,” Clark said.
Obama was viewed negatively by 42 percent as a result of the debt deal, while US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top US Republican, was viewed negatively by 37 percent.
The debt agreement that consumed weeks of debate and resulted in a two-staged arrangement to cut spending is not getting rave reviews.
More people surveyed, 53 percent, held a negative view of the compromise agreement, compared with 38 percent who think it is a good deal.
Democrats were more balanced in their views, with 47 percent approving it and 45 percent disliking it, while a majority of independents, 53 percent, and Republicans, 63 percent, did not like it.
“The process was very damaging to Washington,” Clark said.
Americans held mixed views on the best way to stimulate economic growth. Cutting spending, 49 percent, and taxing the wealthy, 46 percent, came highest, followed by investment in infrastructure, 34 percent.
Democrats are urging Obama to shift away from the debate over how to reduce the US’ structural deficits and concentrate solely on creating US jobs. Obama has signaled he plans to do this.
“Shift the focus on job creation,” former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson told MSNBC.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,055 adults, including 885 registered voters, had a margin of error of 3 percentage points for all respondents and 3.1 points for registered voters.