June 7, 2010

Doubts About Obama’s Economic Policies Rise

Overview

The public increasingly sees Barack Obama’s policies as having an impact on economic conditions and, for the first time, slightly more say the impact has been negative rather than positive.

About three-in-ten (29%) say Obama’s economic policies since taking office have made economic conditions worse; 23% say his policies have made conditions better. Nearly four-in-ten (38%) say they have had no effect so far or volunteer that it is too soon to tell, according to the latest Pew Research/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, sponsored by SHRM. The survey was conducted June 3-6 among 1,002 adults.

Opinions about the impact of Obama’s economic policies have changed little since February. But the proportion saying that Obama’s economic policies have made economic conditions worse has nearly doubled – from 16% to 29% – since June 2009. Over this period, the percentage saying his policies have improved conditions has changed little, while the number saying Obama’s policies have had no effect or that it is too soon to tell has fallen from 53% to 38%.

A majority of Republicans (58%) now say that Obama’s policies have made economic conditions worse; a year ago, just 35% of Republicans expressed that view while a majority (53%) said they had no effect or that it was too soon to tell.

On balance, many more Democrats continue to say Obama’s policies have made economic conditions better (47%) than worse (11%). Over the past year, however, there has been an eight-point increase in the percentage saying Obama’s policies have had a negative effect. There has been a comparable rise in the percentage saying his policies have improved conditions (seven points).

For many independents, the jury is still out on the effect of Obama’s economic policies. Nearly half (47%) say his policies have had no effect so far or say that it is too soon to tell, which is down only modestly from a year ago (54%). since June 2009, there has been a 10-point increase in the proportion of independents who say Obama’s policies have made economic conditions worse, and a nine-point decline in the percentage saying his policies have made the economy better.

MANY SAY ECONOMIC RECOVERY IS A LONG WAY OFF

The public has become a bit less gloomy over the current state of the nation’s economy, but continues to see recovery as a long way off. And while politicians focus increasing attention on the growing budget deficit, far more Americans point to the job situation, rather than the deficit, as their biggest economic worry.

Half of Americans (50%) say it will be a long time before the economy recovers, while 35% say the economy is not yet recovering but will soon recover, and just 13% say the economy is now recovering. These numbers are virtually unchanged from March.

The public’s views of current economic conditions also remain negative. Just 9% say conditions are excellent or good, which is little changed from measures over the past two years. However, among those viewing the economy negatively – as only fair or poor – the proportion rating it poor has declined over the past few months while the percentage saying it is only fair has risen.

The latest Pew Research/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, sponsored by SHRM, finds that opinions about the current state of the economy, as well as about expectations for a recovery, continue to be deeply divided along partisan lines. As was the case in March, most Republicans (58%) and independents (53%) see an economic recovery as a long way off. Democrats are more optimistic, but the percentage saying the economy will recover soon has not increased significantly since March (42% then, 43% today).

Compared with March, fewer Republicans, Democrats and independents rate national economic conditions as poor. Nonetheless, the percentages rating the economy as excellent or good – across all three groups – have not risen since then.

The survey finds that personal financial evaluations have changed very little in recent months. Currently, 38% rate their personal financial situation as excellent or good, while 38% say their finances are only fair and 20% rate their finances as poor.

Economic Worries: Jobs Still Trump Deficit

A plurality of Americans (41%) cite the job situation as the economic issue that worries them most; 23% cite the federal budget deficit; 16% say rising prices and 13% say problems in the financial and housing markets.

The public’s economic concerns are little changed from March, when 45% said that the job situation was their top economic worry and 23% the budget deficit.

Republicans continue to be evenly divided as to whether jobs (35%) or the federal budget deficit (34%) is most worrisome. But among Democrats and independents, substantially more cite the jobs situation than the budget deficit.

MIXED VIEWS OF FINANCIAL REGULATION LEGISLATION

For more than a year, the public has supported the idea of stricter government regulations on major financial companies and institutions. But there is less agreement — and more uncertainty — over the major legislation dealing with financial regulation currently making its way through Congress.

Slightly more Americans say they favor (39%) than say they oppose (33%) the financial reform legislation being discussed in Congress, while 28% do not give an opinion. In March, fully 61% said it was good idea for the government to more strictly regulate the way major financial companies do business; just 31% said it was a bad idea while 8% offered no opinion.

According to the latest Pew Research/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, sponsored by SHRM, Democrats generally support the financial reform legislation (51% favor, 18% oppose) while Republicans oppose it (28% favor, 49% oppose). Opinion among independents is divided; 41% of independents favor the legislation while 36% oppose it.