Things are also bad for Obama when Americans are asked a version of the famous “are you better off today” question that Reagan used to bludgeon Jimmy Carter on his way to defeating Carter in 1980. By better than 2 to 1, more say they are not as well off financially as they were at the start of Obama’s term.
This politically sensitive indicator is about where it was for former president George H.W. Bush at the end of 1991, and those numbers moved little the following year, when Bush lost his reelection bid to Clinton.
Despite the negative economic news, many Americans remain optimistic. While 50 percent are pessimistic about the jobs situation in the coming year, nearly as many, 45 percent, say they are optimistic.
However, the limited optimism on jobs is undercut by swiftly fading confidence in the country’s trajectory. In the new poll, just 20 percent of Americans say things are going in the right direction, lower than a year ago and the lowest percentage saying so since January 2009, just before Obama took the oath of office.
The sense of deflation is particularly apparent among Democrats, with nearly two-thirds saying things are pretty seriously off on the wrong track. The percentage of Democrats saying things are headed in the right direction has cratered from 60 percent at the start of the year to 32 percent now.
Among political independents — a prime target of Obama’s new outreach — 78 percent see the country as off-kilter. The percentage saying so in January 2009 was 79 percent. Pessimism was even higher among independents — and everyone else — during the depth of the financial crisis in late 2008. But for Obama, things are back to square one.
Obama’s overall approval rating is down 11 percentage points from the start of the year. The only other time a majority disapproved of his handling of the presidency in Post-ABC polling was a year agoafter another rough summer.
For the first time, fewer than half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 give the president positive marks. Young voters broke overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008, but just 47 percent of those under age 30 now approve of the way he is doing his job; just as many disapprove.
Fewer than three-quarters of Democrats approve of the president; his disapproval rating among independents ties its high from a year ago at 57 percent.
One area where the president continues to score high ratings is on his handling of the threat of terrorism. Here, 62 percent of all Americans approve; 32 percent disapprove.
The telephone poll of 1,001 randomly selected adults was conducted Aug. 29 to Sept. 1. Results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Polling manager Peyton M. Craighill and polling analyst Scott Clement contributed to this report.
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