26 October 2011

Anxiety on the Economy Fuels Volatility in the 2012 Race

Anxiety on the Economy Fuels Volatility in the 2012 Race: A new poll finds that Americans’ distrust of government is higher than ever and that the national mood has provided an opening for protest movements like Occupy Wall Street. With Election Day just over a year away, a deep sense of economic anxiety and doubt about the future hangs over the nation, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, with Americans’ distrust of government at its highest level ever.
The combustible climate helps explain the volatility of the presidential race and has provided an opening for protest movements, the latest of which is Occupy Wall Street, to highlight grievances about banks, income inequality and a sense that the poor and middle class have been disenfranchised. Almost half of the public thinks the sentiment at the root of the movement generally reflects the views of most Americans.

With nearly all Americans remaining fearful that the economy is stagnating or deteriorating even further, two-thirds of the public said wealth should be distributed more evenly in the country. Seven in 10 Americans think the policies of Congressional Republicans favor the rich. Two-thirds object to tax cuts for corporations and a similar number prefer increasing income taxes on millionaires.

On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office released a new study concluding that income distribution had become much more uneven in the last three decades, a report that could figure prominently in the battle over how to revive the economy and rein in the federal debt.

The poll findings highlight a backdrop of dissatisfaction and restlessness for the election season that has shown itself in the competing voices from the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements, anti-Washington sentiment more generally and the cross-currents within both parties about the best way forward. Not only do 89 percent of Americans say they distrust government to do the right thing, 74 percent say the country is on the wrong track and 84 percent disapprove of Congress — warnings for Democrats and Republicans alike.

Republican voters remain unenthused about their options to challenge President Obama next year, as the competition intensifies between Mitt Romney, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and other contenders. The uncertainty has provided an opening for Herman Cain, who was viewed more enthusiastically by Republican primary voters than were other Republican candidates.

The approval rating for Mr. Obama, 46 percent, appears to be elevated by positions he has taken on foreign affairs. Sixty percent of those questioned said they approve of his handling of Iraq, a question added to the poll following his announcement last Friday that American troops would come home by the end of the year.

But the president, whose disapproval rating is also 46 percent, also faces mixed signals from the public about his latest job-creation proposals. While the poll found substantial support for the plan’s individual components, more than half of the public say he lacks a clear plan for creating jobs, despite his extensive travels around the country over the last six weeks selling his proposals.

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