Three months following the terrorist attacks and nine months into a recession, most Americans say the country is on the right track and headed for better times. Even though the economy is a concern, a solid majority feels optimistic about the economy right now, according to the latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll.

The poll, conducted December 12-13, shows 75 percent of the public thinks the country is headed in the right direction and 71 percent feels optimistic about the country's economy today (up from 55 percent six months ago). Two-thirds also feel safe and secure about their personal financial future (down only four percent since April). Even so, the economy and related issues are now on par with the war on terrorism as top priorities on which Americans think the government should focus.

Experts at the National Bureau of Economic Research recently announced that the country has been in a recession since March. Opinion is divided on the recession's expected duration and also on whether government intervention is necessary. About equal numbers believe the U.S. recession is coming to an end as believe we're headed deeper into economic troubles (43 percent to 41 percent respectively).

The same kind of split is seen on the need for an economic stimulus package; 42 percent think Congress should enact a stimulus plan while 44 percent think that the economy will improve on its own. A plurality thinks economic cycles are responsible for the recession rather than Capitol Hill, President Bush or Alan Greenspan.

"While people clearly see problems, the ability of the government to tackle Afghanistan and other issues has reassured people," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "While it is impossible to tell how long this climate will last, the cycle of political finger pointing and partisan frustration has been broken. Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike see the country pulling together to win the war and emerge from the economic downturn."

A large majority (81 percent) prefers long-term lower tax rates over tax refunds, and about an equal number (78 percent) think lowering tax rates is a better way to help boost the economy than refunds. Overall, more than half (57 percent) think cutting taxes is more likely to improve the economy than increased government spending (16 percent).

During debate on these issues, partisan squabbling has returned to Capitol Hill. Some Americans view the partisanship as a sign of healthy politics, but about half think it's unnecessary during wartime (36 to 52 percent).

The wartime rally behind the country's leadership remains extremely strong. Strength of support for the military action in the war on terrorism is virtually unchanged today compared to support immediately following 9-11, and approval of President Bush's job performance has not only held at post-attack levels, but also has seen a slight increase.

U.S. Military Action

  Support Oppose
Now 91% 6
Sept 89% 6

Bush Job Performance

  Approve Disapprove
Now 86% 8
Sept 81% 12

This continued strong support could be due to persistent worry about future terrorist attacks. Concern about another attack is as high today as it was in September, and 58 percent think an attack is likely during the current holiday season.

Polling was conducted by telephone December 12-13, 2001 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ± 3 percentage points.

1. Considering how things are today, would you say that the U.S. is generally headed in the right direction, or is it off on the wrong track?

  Right direction Wrong track Undecided
14 Dec 01 75% 12 13
21 Sept 01 71% 12 17
13 July 01 51% 34 15
20 Apr 01 52% 29 19
23 Feb 01 51% 29 20

2. Considering just the moral climate of the U.S. today, would you say that the U.S. is generally headed in the right direction, or is it off on the wrong track?

  Right direction Wrong Track Undecided
14 Dec 01 59% 29 12
21 Sept 01 64% 23 13
13 July 01 33% 56 11
20 Apr 01 32% 55 13
23 Feb 01 31% 55 14

3. What do you think are the two most important issues for the federal government to address? (Do Not Read)

  14 Dec 01 21 Sept 01 8 Jun 01 30 Mar 01 12 Jan 01
Economy 32% 30 17 18 19
Terrorism 28 52 - - -
Education 14 12 31 29 32
War 10 14 - - -
Health care 9 6 16 15 23
Social security 9 5 14 13 15
Defense 8 7 8 5 7
Family values/morals (decline of) 7 5 3 4 5
Employment/jobs 7 3 3 3 4
Security 6 4 - - -
Taxes 6 3 22 31 13
Foreign policy 3 4 6 4 6
Poverty/Homelessness 3 1 3 1 2
Crime/drugs 3 2 6 5 7
Medicare/Medicaid Reform 1 2 10 9 10
Immigration 1 2 - - 1
Environment 1 1 10 6 4
September 11 1 4 - - -
Usama bin Laden 1 3 - - -
Welfare 1 1 3 2 3
Federal deficit 1 1 1 2 2
Balanced budget 1 1 4 4 4
Abortion 1 1 2 2 4
Race relations 1 1 1 - -
Child care 1 1 - 1 -
Campaign finance Reform - - 1 1 1
Gun Control - - 3 3 2
IRS problems - - - - -
Other 1 1 1 5 3
(Don’t know/Ref) 9 5 4 7 6

I'm going to read the names of some political figures. Please tell me whether you have a generally favorable or unfavorable opinion of each one. If you've never heard of someone, please just say so.
SCALE: 1. Favorable 2. Unfavorable 3. (Can't say) 4. (Never heard of) (ROTATE)

4. George W. Bush

  Favorable Unfavorable Can't say Never heard
14 Dec 01 84% 12 4 -
16 Nov 01 83% 12 5 -
21 Sept 01 79% 13 8 -
24 Aug 01 56% 36 8 -
27 July 01 59% 29 11 1

5. Laura Bush

  Favorable Unfavorable Can't say Never heard
14 Dec 01 76% 5 17 2
16 Nov 01 74% 7 16 3
20 Apr 01 61% 10 25 4
23 Feb 01 57% 8 31 4

6. Al Gore

  Favorable Unfavorable Can't say Never heard
14 Dec 01 47% 40 13 -
24 Aug 01 51% 39 10 -
20 Apr 01 52% 37 11 -
12 Jan 01 55% 38 7 -

7. Bill Clinton

  Favorable Unfavorable Can't say Never heard
14 Dec 01 42% 50 8 -
27 July 01 42% 51 7 -
20 Apr 01 40% 54 6 -
30 Mar 01 41% 52 7 -
16 Mar 01 40% 54 6 -

8. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?

  Approve Disapprove (DK)
14 Dec 01 86% 8 6
30 Nov 01 86% 6 8
16 Nov 01 88% 7 5
2 Nov 01 84% 8 8
19 Oct 01 84% 10 6
5 Oct 01 80% 10 10
21 Sept 01 81% 12 7
24 Aug 01 55% 32 13

9. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Rumsfeld is doing as secretary of defense?

  Approve Disapprove (DK)
14 Dec 01 78% 6 16
30 Nov 01 80% 4 16
16 Nov 01 78% 5 17
19 Oct 01 75% 7 18

10. Do you approve or disapprove of the job John Ashcroft is doing as attorney general?

  Approve Disapprove (DK)
14 Dec 01 69% 12 19
30 Nov 01 69% 8 23

11. If the year 2002 congressional election were held today, would you vote for the Republican candidate in your district or the Democratic candidate in your district? (If undecided) Well, if you had to vote, which way would you lean?

    Republican     Democrat    
  Vote Lean Total Vote Lean Total (Other/Not sure)
14 Dec 01 33% 7 40 21 8 29 31
30 Mar 01 32% 6 38 33 3 36 26
12 Jan 01 26% 7 33 32 6 38 29

12. Thinking ahead to the 2004 presidential elections, for whom do you think you would vote if the candidates were: PROBE FOR LEANERS; PUSH FOR DECISIONS; ROTATE CHOICES – Republican George W. Bush or Democrat Al Gore?

  Bush Gore (Someone Else) (Undecided) (Would not vote)
14 Dec 01 61% 23 4 11 1
GOP 89% 4 2 4 *
Dem 28% 54 4 13 2
Ind 56% 15 7 20 2
8 June 01 50% 38 7 4 1

13. Do you support or oppose the U.S. military action being taken in response to the terrorist attacks? (*asked before 17-18 Oct 01 as "would you favor/oppose")

  Support Oppose (Not sure)
12-13 Dec 01      
All 91% 6 3
Democrat 86% 11 3
GOP 97% 2 1
Independent 92% 5 3
28-29 Nov 01      
All 91% 5 4
Democrat 89% 7 4
GOP 95% 2 3
Independent 88% 8 4
14-15 Nov 01      
All 91% 6 3
Democrat 85% 10 5
GOP 96% 2 2
Independent 94% 5 1
31 Oct-1 Nov 01      
All 87% 8 5
Democrat 81% 12 7
GOP 94% 4 2
Independent 87% 8 5
17-18 Oct 01      
All 89% 6 5
Democrat 88% 7 5
GOP 93% 3 4
Independent 86% 9 5
3-4 Oct 01      
All 82% 8 10
Democrat 78% 11 11
GOP 89% 5 6
Independent 82% 8 10
19-20 Sept 01      
All 89% 6 5
Democrat 87% 8 5
GOP 93% 5 2
Independent 87% 7 6

14. How worried are you that terrorist attacks might take place where you live or work?
SCALE: 1. Very worried 2. Somewhat worried 3. Not very worried 4. Not worried at all 5. (vol. already has happened) 6. (Not sure)

  Very Somewhat Not very Not at all (Hppnd) (DK)
14 Dec 01 11% 26 31 31 - 1
19 Oct 01 12% 31 28 28 - 1
21 Sept 01 11% 24 31 33 - 1

15. How likely do you think it is that terrorist attacks might take place during the current holiday season — meaning now through New Year's Eve?

Very likely 16%
Somewhat likely 42
Not very likely 23
Not at all likely 11
(Not sure) 8

16. Three times since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the federal government has issued alerts saying terrorist attacks might take place in the near future. Do you think most people continue to take these alerts seriously or do they ignore them?

People are still taking alerts seriously 67%
People are ignoring them 25
(Never took seriously) 1
(Not sure) 7

17. Do you feel satisfied with the opportunities you’ve had to contribute to the war on terrorism or do you wish there were more opportunities for you to get involved?

Satisfied 65%
Wish there were more ways to get involved 24
(Not sure) 11

18. Based on what you know about John Walker, the American who was captured while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan, do you think he should be charged with treason or not?

Yes, charge with treason 59%
No 18
(Not sure) 23

19. Which of the following do you think should be the top priority for federal government right now?
1. Fighting the war on terrorism*
2. Strengthening security at home including protecting airports and stopping anthrax
3. Stimulating the economy
4. (Not sure)

  Fighting Terrorism Strengthening security Stimulating the economy (Not sure)
14 Dec 01 38% 31 22 9
16 Nov 01 27% 45 16 12

*asked "winning the war in Afghanistan" 16 Nov 01

20. Which do you think is more important?

Doing whatever we feel we have to do to capture terrorists and prevent future terrorism even if the U.S. has to act alone 34%
Working through and maintaining the international alliance of countries that are supporting the war against terrorism 41
(Both) 19
(Not sure) 6

21. It is widely acknowledged that Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction. Do you think the U.S. should:

Take immediate military action against Iraq, or 36%
Try to develop an international consensus before taking action against Iraq? 54
(Don't know) 10

22. Would you say you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the U.S. economy right now? (If optimistic/pessimistic) Is that strongly or only somewhat?

  Optimistic   Pessimistic      
  Strongly Somewhat Somewhat Strongly (Neither) (Dk)
12-13 Dec 01 33% 38 16 8 - 5
3-4 Oct 01 34% 37 16 7 2 4
25-26 July 01 22% 33 22 15 3 5

23. How about your own personal financial situation. Are you frightened about your personal financial future or do you feel safe and secure?
SCALE: 1. Frightened 2. Safe and secure 3. (Neither) 4. (Not sure)

  Frightened Safe/Secure (Neither) (Dk)
14 Dec 01 26% 66 - 8
5 Oct 01 21% 67 8 4
24 Aug 01 29% 57 10 4
20 Apr 01 18% 70 9 3

24. How likely do you think it is that you or someone in your family will lose their job this year?
SCALE: 1. Very likely 2. Somewhat likely 3. Not very likely 4. Not likely at all 5. (Already happened) 6. (Not sure)

  Very Somewhat Not very Not at all (Already) (DK)
14 Dec 01 12% 16 26 34 7 5
5 Oct 01 10% 14 31 37 3 5
16 Mar 01 8% 13 32 43 n/a 4
9 Feb 01 10% 14 33 39 n/a 4

25. Congress is currently debating an economic stimulus plan. Do you think it is necessary that Congress pass such a plan for the economy to improve or will it improve anyway?

Stimulus plan is necessary 42%
Economy will improve anyway 44
(Not sure) 14

26. The National Bureau of Economic Research recently announced that the U.S. economy has been in a recession since March. Do you think the country is now headed out of a recession or are we headed deeper into a recession?

U.S. is on the way out of a recession 43%
U.S. is headed deeper into a recession 41
(U.S. not in a recession) 2
(Not sure) 14

27. Which of the following do you think is most responsible for the recession?

Congress 5%
President Bush 5
Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve 4
The terrorist attacks & war on terrorism 19
Regular economic cycles 36
(Combination) 19
(Former President Bill Clinton) 5
(Not sure) 7

28. Which do you think is more likely to stimulate the economy and get us out of recession?("...and keep the country from experiencing a long recession" 16 Nov 01)
SCALE: 1. Increasing government spending 2. Cutting taxes 3. (Neither) 4. (Not sure)

  Increasing spending Cutting taxes (Neither) (Not sure)
14 Dec 01 16% 57 14 13
16 Nov 01 22% 54 12 12

29. If you had to chose between an immediate tax refund today or lower tax rates for the next five years, which would you take?

A refund check 12%
Lower future rates 81
(Not sure) 7

30. Which do you think would do more to stimulate the economy?

An immediate tax refund 12%
A long-term lowering of tax rates 78
(Not sure) 10

31. Last year experts projected that the federal budget would be in surplus for the next 10 years, but it is now projected that the government will run deficits for possibly the next 4 years. Which of the following do you think best explains this reversal?

Increased spending to respond to the 9-11 attacks and homeland security 33%
Increased military spending over the next decade 15
Last year's tax cuts 10
New plans for corporate tax breaks 11
New plans for pork barrel spending 9
(Don't know/Refused) 22

32. If the federal government needs to borrow from the Medicare and Social Security trust funds to pay its expenses, which political party do you think is most to blame?

Democrats in Congress 29%
Republicans in Congress 35
(Don't know) 36

33. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are once again fiercely debating issues such as taxes and economic policy. Do you think this is:

A sign of healthy politics, or 36%
Unnecessary partisan squabbling during wartime? 52
(Don't know) 12

34. California Congressman Gary Condit has filed papers to seek re-election. How likely do you think it is that Condit will win re-election?

Very likely 7%
Somewhat likely 12
Not very likely 23
Not at all likely 40
(Not sure) 18