Poll: Glimmer of hope on economy, Obama's handling of it

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 21, 2011 

WASHINGTON — A nearly 2-1 majority of voters think that President Barack Obama inherited, rather than caused, today's slumping economy, and more Americans trust him to create jobs than they do the Republicans in Congress, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

Half of U.S. adults think that Obama's push to create jobs will do more good than harm, while 40 percent say the opposite. The president has spent the fall prodding Congress to pass his $447 billion job-creation package, and he signed legislation Monday to give tax credits to businesses that hire unemployed veterans.

The Nov. 8-10 survey of 1,026 adults, including 872 registered voters, found a populace that's still glum about the nation's economic outlook: Nearly three out of four think the country is in a recession — although the official scorekeeper of these things, the National Bureau of Economic Research, says the recession ended in 2009 — and 53 percent think that "the worst is yet to come," while 41 percent think the worst is behind us.

The number who think the country is in a recession had declined slightly since July, and those who think that the worst is "yet to come" declined significantly since August, when 68 percent of Americans said that was what they thought.

"We're generally seeing some minor or slight improvement in some of the measures," Marist poll director Lee Miringoff said. "It's no big flip, no big turnaround, but perhaps an inkling that things are starting to improve."

Likewise, there's been little movement in expectations for personal family finances. Only 22 percent expect them to get better in the coming year, while 59 percent expect them to "stay about the same." In September the comparable figures were 28 percent and 55 percent.

The poll found that 60 percent of registered voters think that Obama inherited the current economic conditions — a finding that's held fairly steady for two years — while 32 percent blame his policies. The findings reflect a partisan split: Fifty-nine percent of Republicans said they thought the current economic conditions were mostly a result of the president's policies, while just 12 percent of Democrats blamed Obama. Sixty-two percent of independents said the president inherited the current economy.

The public is more narrowly divided over whom to trust with creating jobs: Forty-six percent said Obama and 42 percent said Republicans in Congress. Independents sided with the president by 44 percent to 41 percent for congressional Republicans. The rest were unsure.

As Obama takes his push for the jobs package to New Hampshire on Tuesday, the survey found that 50 percent think that the package will do more good than harm; 40 percent think it will do more harm than good. Those ages 18 to 29 are especially impressed with the plan: Sixty-nine percent said it would do more good than harm. Positive ratings fell with age groups, with those 60 and over divided evenly, 45-45 percent.

"This is nothing to write home about for Obama, but it's a slight modification on what has been some pretty dire news on the economic front for some time," Miringoff said.

The poll's error margin is plus or minus 3 percentage points overall, and 3.5 percentage points for registered voters.

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McClatchy Newspapers 2011

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