Pew Poll: Economic Pessimism Growing

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds growing discontent with the economy. But the good news is the alignment of independents with Democrats on issues and midterm elections.

A summer’s worth of bad news, culminating with Hurricane Katrina, has taken a toll on the public’s mood, particularly when it comes to views of the economy and energy costs. The public’s economic expectations, while hardly robust in the spring, have grown much more negative. Nearly four-in-ten (37%) think economic conditions will be worse a year from now, up from 24% in May and 18% in January. At the same time, higher energy prices are now having a major impact on Americans’ daily lives, with 70% saying they are driving less to save money on gas.

As was the case in the spring, Americans are largely critical of the overall performance of both major parties. But the Republicans face greater political dangers. In an early test of strength on next year’s midterm elections, Republicans trail by 52%-40% among registered voters. Equally important, Democrats are favored on most major issues. Even on terrorism, which consistently has been a Republican strength, the GOP’s advantage has narrowed.

Public support for the U.S. military effort in Iraq has held steady through the summer, despite ongoing violence in that country. Roughly half of Americans (51%) continue to support maintaining U.S. troops in Iraq until the situation there has stabilized. However, there is growing sentiment in favor of setting a timetable for withdrawing the troops – 57% favor that step now, up from 49% in July. Moreover, a steadily growing number of Americans feel Iraq will turn out to be another Vietnam. About four-in-ten (39%) express this view, compared with 29% a year ago.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press of 1,523 Americans, conducted Sept. 8-11, finds that rising energy prices have affected American lifestyles in a variety of ways. Nearly three-in-ten (27%) report they have bought a car that gets better gas mileage. And with winter three months off, 64% of Americans say they are adjusting their home thermostats to reduce energy bills.

The survey finds that the rise in energy prices also has had a modest but perceptible impact on public views of the tradeoff between boosting the energy supply and protecting the environment. A solid majority (57%) now says it is more important to develop new energy sources than to protect the environment, up from 49% who expressed that view in March. Support for oil and gas drilling in the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) also has gained, from 42% in March to 50% currently. Democrats, in particular, are much more receptive to drilling in the Alaska refuge.

Full report here.


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