New Poll: Voters Still Looking For The Good News genre: Econ-Recon

A new Wall Street Journal/ NBC News Poll suggests that voters are unhappy and doubtful about the future of the economy. They are also closely watching the 2008 presidential candidates...looking for plans and proposals which are focused upon the concerns of ordinary Americans.

At the moment, the Democratic candidates appear to have the edge on most issues...including those areas in which Republicans have typically been viewed more favorably. All in all, voters feel that those in positions of authority are motivated by self-interest...leaving voters particularly skeptical and cynical.

More than two-thirds of Americans believe the U.S. economy is either in recession now or will be in the next year, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows.

In addition, the poll shows a lack of confidence in economic leaders. That includes not just Mr. Bush and Congress, both of whom have the approval of fewer than one-third of all Americans, but the financial industry, large corporations in general and energy, drug and insurance companies in particular.

"There's a combination of anxiety and loathing," Mr. Hart said. "There's a sense that every single one of these institutions is totally out for their own betterment, versus the public they serve."

Wall Street Journal Poll

Democratic politicians are reflecting those sentiments in the 2008 presidential campaign and in legislative proposals in Congress. Populist lawmakers in the House and Senate have targeted oil-industry tax breaks, and challenged pharmaceutical companies on issues from drug prices to generic substitutes to imports from foreign companies.

Efforts by Republicans and the business community to raise fears about Democratic tax increases, spending excesses or economic mismanagement have proved unsuccessful. In what Mr. Newhouse called a "world turned upside down," Democrats enjoy an edge in public approval that extends beyond such party strengths as health care and education, where Republicans trail by more than 20 percentage points.

Democrats lead by 35 percentage points on handling gas prices, by 24 percentage points on energy policy and 10 points on dealing with immigration. Even more notably, Republicans lag by 16 percentage points on controlling government spending, 15 percentage points on dealing with the economy and nine percentage points on dealing with taxes.

I find voter sentiment on economic issues to be the most significant finding in this poll...especially the belief that Democrats are better able to control government spending and taxes.

Over the last few years, many conservatives have accused the President of abandoning long held GOP standards of fiscal responsibility and it appears that a majority of voters have also lost confidence in the Republican Party's ability to manage the economy.

Complicating the terrain for GOP candidates is ongoing opposition to the handling of the war in Iraq and the perception that the President continues to lead the country in the wrong direction...none of which can be good news for those GOP candidates looking for some much needed traction as the 2008 election approaches.

"These are sobering numbers for the Republican brand," Mr. Newhouse noted. With Republicans weighed down by Mr. Bush's 31% approval rating, he said, "These party comparisons aren't going to change anytime soon until we get a nominee."

The biggest drag on Republican fortunes remains the Iraq war, which has depressed the nation's mood across the board. Just 19% of Americans say things in the nation are headed in the right direction, while 67% say the country is off on the wrong track.

When those who expressed pessimism were asked to identify a reason, the Iraq war was cited by the highest proportion, 56%. For the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a plurality of Americans say the U.S. is less safe than before the attacks.

Failures in the health-care system are next on the list at 31%, as Americans continue to struggle with rising costs and coverage gaps.

While it is undoubtedly premature to ascertain how the Bush presidency will be treated by historians, I'm inclined to believe that his legacy will include the designation as the Republican politician who facilitated the dismantling of a sustained GOP ascendancy. Not only did George Bush travel to the pinnacle of GOP power, his subsequent actions likely triggered one of the more rapid declines in modern history from such a lofty point.

It is hard to imagine that this is the same president who, following his reelection in 2004, boldly told the American public that his victory had afforded him ample political capital that he intended to spend.

In an ironic twist, this and other polling indicate that the voting public has concluded that George Bush hasn't managed his political capital any better than the fiscal responsibilities that were entrusted to him in his role as the president.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, George Bush, Health Care, Taxes, U.S. Economy, Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll

Daniel DiRito | August 2, 2007 | 9:53 AM
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