By a ratio of 2 to 1, Americans say they feel that President Reagan's recovery program has hurt rather than helped the nation's economy so far, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
But a substantial majority also says Reagan's tax and spending cuts will have a favorable effect on the economy a year from now.
Half the public says that economic conditions are getting worse, and only one in six says they are getting better.
Half the public continues to see inflation and the high cost of living as the nation's leading problem. But a fifth now say unemployment is the main difficulty.
Concern over unemployment is higher than it has been in more than four years, and is accompanied by a widespread expressed belief that the president has shunted aside the poor and working class and cares more about serving the wealthy than all people equally.
These are some of the key conclusions in a poll exploring attitudes toward Reagan, the economy and other issues. Among the findings:
* The nation continues to be sharply polarized over the Reagan presidency, with 32 percent of Democrats but 77 percent of Republicans saying they approve of the way Reagan is handling his job. Overall, Reagan's approval rating stands at 52 percent positive and 39 percent negative, almost exactly where it was in a Washington Post-ABC News poll in late November.
* Three in four people say they like Reagan personally, but there is widespread disapproval of his handling of unemployment, and more than four in 10 say he is "going too far in his plan to cut back or eliminate government social programs." Again, those figures show virtually no change since November.
* Reagan has broad support, at least in theory, for his proposals to turn many national programs over to the states. Seventy-four percent of those interviewed said they approve of states' "taking over some social programs now run by the federal government." The poll, however, was conducted before it became clear that Reagan wants Congress to reduce funding for many programs before the states take control of them.
* By a lopsided 78-to-18 percent the public opposes giving federal tax benefits to private schools that refuse to admit blacks. Reagan has shelved an Internal Revenue Service regulation denying such schools such benefits. One white in three and eight blacks in 10 say they believe that Reagan is not sympathetic to the problems of black people.
Politically, the new findings show a strikingly different national climate than a year ago, when Reagan had near-unanimous public backing for his program of large tax and budget cuts as a means of achieving economic recovery.
With the president about to seek further spending cuts in Congress, political operatives, including those in the White House, expect battles on Capitol Hill. On the one hand, the president's opponents doubtless will cite the failure of his program to show results and hammer at him for favoring big business over the working man and the rich over the poor.
Both these points square with majority opinion. The Post-ABC News poll, for example, shows that seven in 10 people say they believe that Reagan "is more sympathetic" to business than he is to labor, while one in 10 says he sympathizes more with labor than business. Fifty-two percent say Reagan cares more about serving upper-income people than he does other income groups or serving all people equally.
On the other hand, proponents of Reagan's program also will be able to look to public opinion in making their case. Despite recent demands in Congress that he increase taxes to cut the impending federal deficit, the new poll shows that four of five citizens approve of Reagan's decision not to raise taxes.
Requests for cuts in the president's military buildup are expected as Congress looks for a way to cut spending in areas other than social programs, but two-thirds of the public says that Reagan is "just about right" or that he "hasn't gone far enough" in his plans to increase military spending.
The Post-ABC News poll was conducted from Jan. 22 to Jan. 30, sandwiched around the president's State of the Union address on Jan. 26. In all, 1,508 people were interviewed by telephone nationwide.
While many political observers cited Reagan's speech as a masterful effort, it did not appear to create any immediate political groundswell for him. There was virtually no difference in perceptions of the president between people interviewed before the talk and after it.