Pessimistic Public Doubts Effectiveness of Stimulus, TARP

The public remains doggedly downbeat about the condition of the national economy, even as many experts and economists see signs of recovery. As has been the case for most of the past two years, about nine-in-ten (88%) rate national economic conditions as only fair or poor, and over the past year there has been no decline in the percentage saying the economy will stay the same (36%) or get worse (19%) a year from now.

In this light, it is not surprising that many Americans are dubious about the effectiveness of the government's principal economic programs. Just 33% say the economic stimulus passed by Congress last year has helped the job situation and only somewhat more (42%) say the loans the federal government provided to troubled financial institutions prevented a more severe financial crisis. Less than a third (31%) says that the government has made progress in fixing the problems that caused the 2008 financial crisis.

More generally, perceptions of the job situation may well be the critical factor in the public's economic gloom and doubts about the effectiveness of government economic policies. In a News Interest Index survey in early April, 66% said they were hearing a mix of good and bad news about the economy overall, while a majority (56%) said they were hearing mostly bad news about the job situation. (See “Public Remains Focused on Health Care Reform, April 7, 2010.)

The political consequences of the public's unabated economic pessimism are evident in the new polling. Barack Obama's overall job approval rating is 47%, the fifth month in a row he has polled below 50%; just 38% say they approve of his handling of the economy. His party's capabilities are now also under a cloud. The Democratic Party has lost ground to the Republican Party on a wide range of issues, including the job situation.

Read the full report Pessimistic Public Doubts Effectiveness of Stimulus, TARP on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.

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