About half of all Americans call the country’s financial situation “a crisis,” nearly equalling public sentiment when the financial meltdown started in 2008. Since then, the political calculations have changed, and so have partisan views of the extent of the problems.

The downgrade of the U.S. government’s credit rating by Standard and Poor’s rating service on Friday kicked off a massive sell-off on Wall Street on Monday and the volatility has continued through the week. The public has responded in a Tuesday night Washington Post poll with 48 percent calling the current situation a crisis, 44 percent a “serious problem but not a crisis” and 7 percent describing the situation as less serious than that.

In late September 2008, just over half of registered voters, 52 percent, said the U.S. financial situation was a crisis, following the implosion of Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers. In December of that year, 54 percent of all Americans said the same.

In the waning days of the George W. Bush administration, Republicans were less apt than Democrats to describe the situation as a crisis, by 48 to 62 percent in the December 2008 Post-ABC poll. That calculation has flipped in the new poll. With a Democrat in the White House, 58 percent of Republicans now see a crisis against just 42 percent of Democrats . That’s a 20 percentage point drop among Democrats and a 10 point increase among Republicans.

Today, political independents are closer to Democrats in their assessments of the situation, with 43 percent seeing a crisis. That’s down eight points since 2008 when 51 percent saw a crisis, and independents were in closer agreement with Republicans.

Read the full poll results.

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