New Poll Finds 36% Think US Headed in the Right Direction

Wednesday, July 20, 2005 at 04:44 AM

A poll conducted by Greenberg Research for NPR finds that just 36% of Americans believe the US is headed in the right direction.
Other findings include low support for the economic policies of the President, details after the cut.

The NPR poll was conducted among 825 eligible voters, and has an error ratio of +- 3.5 percentage points.

Here's what they found:

Just 36 percent now believe the country is headed in the right direction. This represents a significant darkening in the nation's mood since NPR?s last survey five months ago, and is the lowest point since NPR began polling regularly in May 2003.

Just 43 percent of voters approve of the president's handling of the economy; 56 percent describe the economy as ?not so good? or ?poor.?

The worry about the economy is eroding support for the Republicans in places where the president has run well on values, particularly non-college educated, older women and rural voters.

When asked to focus on positive aspects of the economy, voters think of the housing boom and low interest rates, along with a lower unemployment rate.

When asked to focus on the negative aspects, responses are richer and more multi-dimensional ? focused on rising costs, exported jobs, reduced benefits at work, and macro imbalances, like the federal deficits.

When thinking of the economy in general, voters focus much more on these negative dimensions and facts (53 to 39 percent). When asked to focus on ?YOUR economic situation,? voters focus more on the positive (51 to 41 percent). But that is misleading. The better off (college educated) are critical of the general economy but positive about their own. Those less well off (high school educated) are negative about both.

In this context, Republican messages talking about job gains, low unemployment and home ownership seem unpersuasive. A narrative centered on progress and the economy being ?in good shape? scores much lower than a Democratic narrative.

The Democrats have two strong narratives that dominate the Republican economic discussion: 1) tax cuts, deficits, and inaction on job outsourcing and health care that leave the economy in long-term trouble; and 2) policy that benefits the wealthiest and big corporations, while the middle class face rising economic burdens.

Democrats now hold a 7-point advantage in a generic congressional contest (47 to 40 percent), which has the potential to translate into significant congressional gains.

With Democrats gaining ground amid the ethics scandals in Washington, capitalizing now on the economy and hitting the Republicans on several different fronts may give the Democratic party the edge they need to gain some seats in 2006.