Four out of five Americans think debt -- government and personal -- is ruining the nation's economy, and half feel the bailouts and billions of dollars in government spending to stop the economy's decline has the country drifting away from capitalism and toward socialism.
A FOX News poll released Thursday shows large majorities of Democrats (78 percent), Republicans (82 percent) and independents (80 percent) think debt is ruining the economy.
In addition, 50 percent of the public says the stimulus packages and government aid to major corporations makes it feel like the country is drifting toward socialism; although a sizable 37 percent minority disagrees. Republicans (70 percent) are significantly more likely than Democrats (34 percent) to say it feels the country is moving toward socialism. Among independents, 53 percent agree.
In a speech last week President-elect Barack Obama said "only government" can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift the country out of the current recession. The poll finds many Americans disagree. Voters are more than twice as likely to say the most effective way to help the economy out of recession is spending by individuals and businesses (52 percent) rather than government spending (19 percent).
When asked specifically about Obama's proposed economic recovery plan a 58 percent majority says they support it. Majorities of Democrats (79 percent) and independents (60 percent) say they support Obama's new plan, and a slim majority of Republicans (52 percent) oppose it.
"It will be interesting to see whether this level of support holds up once the details of the recovery plan come to light -- especially given the public's general preference for private rather than public solutions," said Ernest Paicopolos, a principal of Opinion Dynamics.
Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from January 13 to January 14. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
Hardly any Americans -- 5 percent -- rate the nation's economy as being in excellent or good shape. An overwhelming 94 percent majority rates it as only fair (20 percent) or poor (74 percent). Over the last few months, the number of Americans rating the economy as fair has decreased by 9 percentage points and the number rating the economy as poor has increased by the same amount.
Furthermore, more than twice as many as think the worst is yet to come (63 percent) as think the worst is over (29 percent).
So it is no surprise that 68 percent of Americans say they want the new president to make the economy his top priority. No other issue even receives double-digit mentions.
Many -- 59 percent -- say they would be willing to take a pay cut if it meant a co-worker would keep their job instead of being laid off. That will come as comforting news to the one in five (20 percent) Americans who say they are extremely or very concerned about losing their job.
There are areas of optimism though, as 66 percent of Americans think the nation's economy will be in better shape a year from now, and although confidence is down slightly, most people -- 74 percent --say they are confident about their personal financial future (down from 81 percent, September 22-23, 2008).