With a double-dip recession now looming and the stock market buffeted by its steepest declines since the collapse in late 2008, the findings add another layer of pessimism to a gloomy summer. Just as the market has plunged in recent days, so, too, has public faith in the nation’s leaders to deal with the problems.
Anger at Washington has been growing for some time, but the latest political battle has resulted in an intensification of the discontent.
A majority of Americans surveyed said they oppose the recent debt-ceiling compromise, which calls for slicing about $2 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. The highest and strongest opposition comes from Republicans, but a majority of independents also oppose the deal, according to the poll. Democrats are evenly divided on the matter.
But that judgment only hints at the dissatisfaction aimed at political leaders in Washington, who must specify in excess of $1 trillion more in deficit reduction by later this fall or trigger across-the-board cuts in defense and non-defense spending.
Nearly three-quarters of Americans polled said they have little or no confidence in Washington to repair the economy. Confidence is down 21 percentage points from October 2010 and is less than half its 2002 levels. Roughly four in 10 have no confidence at all in the federal government when it comes to dealing with the economy, the poll indicates.
The number of people who expressed no confidence at all nearly doubled since October 2010. Almost half of independents said “none” when asked about their confidence, more than double the proportion saying so last fall.
Nearly eight in 10 of Americans polled were dissatisfied with the way the political system is working, up dramatically from late 2009. The unhappiness is intense, with 45 percent saying they are very dissatisfied. That feeling is shared widely across party lines. Independents are the most disgruntled, with 51 percent calling themselves very dissatisfied.
More than seven in 10 said Washington is focused on the “wrong things.” That too is sharply higher than it was just 10 months ago. Two-thirds of Republicans who see the government as focused on the wrong things said Obama and the Democrats are to blame, and Democrats were nearly as likely to point the finger at the GOP. Among independents, a plurality — 43 percent — volunteered that both sides are at fault.