Fox News Poll

Economic Uncertainty: Is the Worst Still Ahead?

The public's outlook for the national economy is divided, with almost equal numbers saying the worst is over as saying the worst is yet to come.

When asked about the condition of the country's economy, 43 percent of Americans say they think the worst is over and 47 percent say the worst is yet to come. Predictable partisan differences are seen here, with the responses from Republicans and Democrats reflecting a mirror image of each other — 61 percent of Democrats think worse economic times are ahead, while 61 percent of Republicans think the worst is over. A slim majority (52 percent) of independents thinks the worst is yet to come.

These are some of the findings of the latest FOX News national poll of registered voters, conducted May 20-21 by Opinion Dynamics Corporation.

On the issue of their own state's economy, Americans have a gloomier view — only 30 percent say the worst is over but a majority (58 percent) thinks the worst is still down the road.

"The greater pessimism about their state's economy is almost certainly due to the fact that so many states are facing massive deficits and curtailing services or even raising taxes," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman (search). "While the growing federal budget deficit is mostly invisible to the average person, layoffs of teachers and policemen or increasing local property taxes are immediately visible. One problem facing the Bush reelection campaign is that these local signs of bad times are likely to persist through Election Day, even if the national economy turns more positive."

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (search) also appears to have a wait-and-see outlook, commenting earlier this week that more post-Iraq war information was needed to make "a firm judgment" on the economy's strength. When it comes to setting economic policy, Americans trust Greenspan (36 percent) more than President Bush (24 percent) or Congressional Democrats (19 percent).

Opinion is also split on whether the 2001 tax cuts helped the nation's economy. Some 38 percent think the 2001 tax cuts hurt the economy and 37 percent think they helped. Republicans (63 percent) are about three times as likely as both Democrats (20 percent) and independents (22 percent) to think the 2001 cuts helped the economy.

There are differences in the public's perceptions on which political party would do a better job on major issues. On the economy, Republicans and Democrats are rated essentially evenly (39 percent to 40 percent respectively). Republicans have a very slight edge on the issue of taxes — 40 percent to 38 percent.

On other domestic issues, such as healthcare, Social Security, and education, pluralities say the Democrats would do a better job. Majorities, by wide margins, say Republicans would do a better job on terrorism and Iraq.

As has been the case in the past, President Bush's job approval rating on managing the economy is lower than his overall rating. Today, equally as many Americans approve (45 percent) of his job performance on the economy as disapprove (45 percent). That is in sharp contrast to the 73 percent approval rating Bush receives on handling the issue of terrorism (19 percent disapprove).

The president's overall job approval rating, currently at 64 percent, appears to be inching its way back to its pre-Iraq war level. Before the war started, 60 percent approved of the job Bush was doing (March 11-12), while during the war with Iraq it went to 71 percent (April 8-9). Large partisan splits remain, with 93 percent of Republicans rating Bush positively compared to 39 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents.

The president's approval rating is almost twice that received by Congress. Only one-third of the public approves of the job Congress is doing, while a plurality of 47 percent disapproves and 20 percent are unsure.

Overall confidence in the president and the military remains high. Today, 76 percent of Americans have either "a great deal" (49 percent) or "some" (27 percent) confidence in the president. The highest level of confidence continues to be in the military (96 percent), including 77 percent with "a great deal" and 19 percent with "some" confidence in the armed forces.

The news media and big business rate the lowest, with less than 10 percent saying they have "a great deal" of confidence in these institutions.

Polling was conducted by telephone May 20-21, 2003 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. Results are of registered voters, unless otherwise noted. LV = likely voters

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

  Approve Disapprove (Don’t Know)
20-21 May 03 64% 26 10
6-7 May 03 65% 24 11
22-23 Apr 03 65% 25 10
8-9 Apr 03 71% 20 9
25-26 Mar 03 66% 24 10

2. Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Bush is doing handling the issue of terrorism?

  Approve Disapprove (Don't know)
20-21 May 03 73% 19 8
29-30 Jan 03 72% 20 8
3-4 Dec 02 66% 22 12
22-23 Oct 02 LV 67% 22 11
24-25 Sep 02 70% 23 7
23-24 Jun 02 77% 17 6
4-5 Jun 02 73% 18 9
30 Apr-1 May 02 78% 16 6

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Bush is doing managing the economy?

20-21 May 03 45% 45 10
8-9 Apr 03 48% 40 12
29-30 Jan 03 42% 48 10
3-4 Dec 02 47% 40 13
22-23 Oct 02 LV 48% 42 10
24-25 Sep 02 52% 36 12
23-24 Jul 02 55% 37 8
4-5 Jun 02 62% 28 10
30 Apr-1 May 02 64% 29 7

4. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Congress is doing?

  Approve Disapprove (Don't know)
20-21 May 03 33% 47 20

5. Do you approve or disapprove of the way the United States military is handling the postwar situation in Iraq?

  Approve Disapprove (Don't know)
20-21 May 03 80% 11 9

6. – 13. I'm going to read you a list of people and institutions. Please tell me how much confidence you have in each. How much confidence do you have in: (ROTATE CHOICES)
SCALE: 1. A great deal 2. Some 3. Not much 4. None at all 5. (Not sure)

                         • The military

  Great Some Ntmch None (NS)
20-21 May 03 77% 19 2 1 1
18-19 Jun 02 71% 23 3 2 1
2-3 Apr 02 77% 19 2 1 1

                         • The president

  Great Some Ntmch None (NS)
20-21 May 03 49% 27 13 10 1
18-19 Jun 02 50% 36 7 5 2
2-3 Apr 02 59% 27 6 6 2

                         • The public school system

  Great Some Ntmch None (NS)
20-21 May 03 18% 45 22 11 4
2-3 Apr 02 24% 48 16 9 3

                         • The Congress

  Great Some Ntmch None (NS)
20-21 May 03 11% 60 19 6 4
2-3 Apr 02 19% 57 17 4 3

                         • The Catholic Church

  Great Some Ntmch None (NS)
20-21 May 03 17% 25 18 21 19
18-19 Jun 02 14% 25 23 25 13
2-3 Apr 02 18% 32 18 16 16

                         • The Internal Revenue Service

  Great Some Ntmch None (NS)
20-21 May 03 12% 50 19 13 6
18-19 Jun 02 12% 49 20 14 5
2-3 Apr 02 16% 51 17 10 6

                         • The news media

  Great Some Ntmch None (NS)
20-21 May 03 9% 43 31 15 2
18-19 Jun 02 11% 48 26 13 2
2-3 Apr 02 14% 49 23 12 2

                         • Major business corporations

  Great Some Ntmch None (NS)
20-21 May 03 6% 43 29 17 5
18-19 Jun 02 10% 46 24 13 7
2-3 Apr 02 12% 51 21 10 6

14. – 20. Which political party — the Republicans or the Democrats — do you think would do a better job on each of the following issues? (ROTATE)
SCALE: 1. Republicans 2. Democrats 3. (Equal) 4. (Don’t know)

  GOP Dem (Equal) (DK)
The economy 39% 40 9 12
Terrorism 53% 19 14 14
Social Security 32% 46 9 13
Iraq 52% 20 12 16
Health Care 30% 48 9 13
Taxes 40% 38 9 13
Education 35% 40 12 13

                         • The economy

  GOP Dem (Equal) (DK)
20-21 May 03 39% 40 9 12
8-9 Oct 02 LV 41% 41 7 11
6-7 Aug 02 36% 43 9 12
26-27 Feb 02 41% 36 10 13

                         • Terrorism

  GOP Dem (Equal) (DK)
20-21 May 03 53% 19 14 14
8-9 Oct 02 LV 51% 25 10 14

                         • Social Security

  GOP Dem (Equal) (DK)
20-21 May 03 32% 46 9 13
8-9 Oct 02 LV 32% 46 8 14
6-7 Aug 02 30% 48 9 13
26-27 Feb 02 33% 44 9 14

                         • Iraq

  GOP Dem (Equal) (DK)
20-21 May 03 52% 20 12 16
8-9 Oct 02 LV 51% 26 8 15

                         • Health Care

  GOP Dem (Equal) (DK)
20-21 May 03 30% 48 9 13
8-9 Oct 02 LV 32% 48 7 13

                         • Taxes

  GOP Dem (Equal) (DK)
20-21 May 03 40% 38 9 13
8-9 Oct 02 LV 45% 37 7 11
6-7 Aug 02 40% 41 7 12
26-27 Feb 02 40% 37 10 13

                         • Education

  GOP Dem (Equal) (DK)
20-21 May 03 35% 40 12 13
8-9 Oct 02 LV 38% 42 10 10
6-7 Aug 02 35% 44 10 11
26-27 Feb 02 36% 38 12 14

21. Who do you trust the most when it comes to setting economic policy? (ROTATE CHOICES)

1. President George Bush 24%
2. Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan 36
3. The Democrats in Congress 19
4. (Other) 1
5. (None) 6
6. (All) 3
7. (Not sure) 11

22. In general, do you think the 2001 tax cuts have helped or hurt the nation’s economy?

1. Helped 37%
2. Hurt 38
3. (Mixed) 11
4. (Not sure) 14

23. After federal taxes are collected from the American public, do you think Congress thinks of the money more as taxpayer money to spend carefully or as their money to spend as they wish?

1. Taxpayer money 14%
2. Their money 79
3. (Both) 2
4. (Neither) 1
5. (Not sure) 4

The Bush administration had proposed a $726 billion tax cut package. It now looks like Congress will settle on a $400 billion dollar tax cut plan.

24. Will you be happy if Congress passes a $400 billion dollar tax cut package?

1. Yes 56%
2. No 28
3. (Not sure) 16

25. Do you think a $400 billion dollar tax cut package will help stimulate the nation’s economy?

1. Yes 46%
2. No 40
3. (Not sure) 14

26. Do you currently have a mortgage on a home, condominium or other residential property?

1. Yes 48%
2. No/Not sure 52

27. (If yes, n=436) How many times have you refinanced that mortgage in the past three years? (OPEN ENDED)

1. (Zero/None) 47%
2. (One time) 38
3. (Two times) 12
4. (Three times) 1
5. (More than three times) -
6. (Not sure/refused) 2

28. Thinking about the condition of the national economy, do you think the worst is over or is the worst yet to come?

1. Worst is over 43%
2. Worst is yet to come 47
3. (Not sure) 10

29. What about the condition of your own state’s economy, do you think the worst is over or is the worst yet to come?

1. Worst is over 30%
2. Worst is yet to come 58
3. (Not sure) 12