Most Americans think the nation's economy has yet to hit bottom, according to a new FOX News poll released Thursday, and a majority thinks the recession will last at least two more years. In addition, CEOs of companies needing taxpayer bailouts are seen as "failed leaders," while just over half of Americans think the Obama administration is up to the task of fixing the economy.
More than twice as many Americans think the worst is yet to come on the economy (66 percent) as think the worst is over (27 percent). Across the board -- majorities of Democrats (59 percent), Republicans (73 percent) and independents (67 percent) agree the worst is ahead.
And the economy-related pain is widespread: 70 percent have personally felt the effects of the recession. Higher and lower income families are equally likely to say they have felt the recession.
The number of people saying the economic situation makes them angry has increased to 42 percent, up from 30 percent in February. Some 35 percent say it makes them feel "fear" instead of anger, down from 42 percent (18-19 February 2009).
Less than a third expect the recession will end by the end of next year. Many more think it will last longer than that: 32 percent say two to three years, another 11 percent say three to four years, and 20 percent say more than four years.
Who will people blame if the economy does not improve in the next six months or gets even worse? By 47 percent to 25 percent, more Americans say they will blame George W. Bush than Barack Obama.
Overall responsibility for the financial crisis gets placed mainly on corporate leaders (29 percent), the Bush administration (23 percent), and congressional leaders (19 percent), or a combination of these (20 percent). Few people -- 5 percent -- blame the Obama administration.
"Americans are shifting from a fear of what's to come, to anger at those who they blame for getting the country into this mess," says Opinion Dynamics Vice President Chris Anderson. "And the clearest targets for this anger are executives at companies taking taxpayer bailouts."
Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from March 31 to April 1. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
Fixing the Economy
Whoever is to blame for the economy, Americans want it fixed. A slim 51 percent majority thinks the Obama administration is "up to the job" of fixing the nation's economy and 43 percent think the administration is "in over its head."
Treasury Secretary Geithner alone inspires less confidence: 51 percent think he is in over his head, while 31 percent say he is up to the job. Moreover, Geithner's job approval rating comes in at 37 percent --19 percentage points lower than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's (56 percent approve).
As for the president, while Barack Obama's approval rating is still fairly high, it has dropped below 60 percent for the first time of his presidency. Fifty-eight percent of Americans say they approve, and 32 percent disapprove of the job Obama is doing. The decline comes from a drop in approval among independents and Republicans.
Budgets and Bailouts
By 50 percent to 43 percent Americans oppose the president's proposed 3.6 trillion dollar budget. Partisanship is fierce on this question: 74 percent of Democrats support the budget and 84 percent of Republicans oppose it. Independents are more likely to oppose the budget (55 percent) than support it (37 percent).
The size of the budget and the projected deficits concerns many: 69 percent worry the national debt is out of control, and a similar number -- 67 percent -- are concerned the government will spend too much to help the economy.
The poll also finds that even though majorities don't like government bailouts for financial institutions (59 percent disapprove) and of giving automakers additional taxpayer loans (65 percent disapprove), more voters than not think the government bailouts are needed to stabilize the economy.
By 51 percent to 42 percent Americans approve of the Obama administration forcing out the CEO of General Motors as a condition of giving the company more federal funding. Furthermore, the poll finds that a 53 percent majority sees the forcing out of GM's CEO as an "unfortunate but necessary" move to save the American way of doing business, while 41 percent view it as a "dangerous move toward socialism."
In general, Americans view CEOs of the companies that needed taxpayer bailouts as "failed leaders" whose judgment cannot be trusted (58 percent) rather than as respected leaders whose companies fell on hard times (31 percent).
Many Americans are against the government ever regulating the salaries of corporate executives (56 percent), but even more -- 64 percent -- believe the government should regulate the salaries of corporate executives who take taxpayer bailouts.
"Basically, Americans view corporations that need taxpayer bailouts as losing the rights traditionally held by corporate America -- specifically setting salaries and choosing their own leadership," says Chris Anderson.
Despite that distrust of business leaders, twice as many people think business executives are better qualified to manage businesses than the federal government. And when a company does get a bailout, the public is divided over whether the government should get involved in the business decisions of those firms (45 percent) or stay out (49 percent).
Almost as many think that under the Obama administration the government is taking "too large a role" (40 percent) in running U.S. companies as think the government is taking an "appropriate" role (43 percent). Few think the government is not taking a large enough role (13 percent).
At the end of the day, most people say a pox on both your houses. While 69 percent say the "greedy corporate executives" are a "major problem" in the country today, even more people -- 73 percent -- point the finger at "power-hungry politicians."