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New polls find Americans in a sour mood

By Dave Cook / August 19, 2009



School may be out, vacation season may be upon us, but Americans are not in a cheery mood, two new public opinion polls indicate.

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A new nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds “Americans are in an increasingly sour mood about Washington,” Pew Center President Andrew Kohut said in a statement.

The Pew poll, conducted August 11-17, reports that Barack Obama’s approval ratings have inched downward. Some 51 percent of those surveyed approve of how the president is handling his job, unchanged from July, but down 10 points from June. Some 37 percent now disapprove of his performance, up from 34 percent in July.

Bipartisanship doubted

A growing proportion of the public says Democrats and Republicans are not working together to solve national problems. Some 63 percent of Americans hold that view now, up from 50 percent in June, Pew said.

The Democratic Party's favorability ratings have declined sharply, according to Pew. Now just 49 percent of those polled have a favorable view of the Democrats, down from 62 percent just before Mr. Obama took office. Republicans' approval rating has been stuck at 40 percent all year.

Glum on pocketbook issues

The low ratings for the major political parties may be tied to the glum view the public has about the economy and their finances. Nine out of ten individuals polled told Pew they rated national economic conditions negatively. Some 52 percent say conditions are poor, 38 percent rate them fair. Only 55 percent of Americans expect their own financial situation to improve over the next year, down from 63 percent who saw reason for optimism in June, Pew said.

Meanwhile a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted August 15-17, showed Americans taking a skeptical view of White House plans to revamp the nation’s healthcare system.

Obama’s approval rating in the Wall Street Journal poll was 51 percent, the same as in the Pew poll. In the NBC/Journal poll, only 41 percent of those surveyed approve of Obama’s handling of healthcare, with 47 percent disapproving.

Republicans should find little comfort in those numbers since the same poll found just 21 percent of the population approved of the Republicans' handling of the healthcare issue.

Misconceptions abound

The new polling data offers a glimpse of the formidable educational challenges the White House faces. The NBC/Journal poll found majorities believe the president's plans would give health coverage to illegal immigrants; would lead to a government takeover of the healthcare system; and would use taxpayer funds to pay for abortions.

As Mark Murray, deputy political director for NBC News notes on the MSNBC website, these are “all claims that non-partisan fact checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress.”

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