The nation’s economy clearly outranks all other issues as the top priority right now, and while nearly half of Americans think the newly passed tax cut package will help the economy overall, most doubt that the new cuts will put more money in their pocket in the near future.

In the latest FOX News poll, most Americans (79 percent) rate the country’s current economic conditions negatively — 48 percent say the economy is in “only fair” shape and 31 percent say the it is in “poor” condition. Only one in five rate it as either “excellent” (one percent) or “good” (19 percent). In addition, half say the economy is “off on the wrong track.” The poll of 900 registered voters was conducted June 3-4 by Opinion Dynamics Corporation.

Even with such a gloomy perspective, do Americans really think things are that bad? A 38 percent plurality says their personal financial situation is better today than it was five years ago, while 29 percent say their financial situation is worse today. Thirty-one percent say they have neither gained nor lost ground in the last five years.

The poll finds most Americans (74 percent) are “very” (26 percent) or “somewhat” (48 percent) confident in their own financial future. These current levels of confidence are down slightly from early 2001, just before President George Bush took office, when 32 percent were “very” confident and 50 percent were “somewhat” confident in their future financial situation.

Many Americans fail to see the new tax cut package helping their financial situation this year. Even though almost half (48 percent) think the $350 billion dollar tax cut package President Bush signed last week will help the nation’s economy, a majority (59 percent) says the tax cuts will not help their family budget in the near future.

"With continued uncertainty on virtually every front — from the state of the economy to the war on terrorism — it is hard for people to be or act confidently," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "Most people clearly do not perceive the tax cut as something that is going to help them in the immediate future."

Opinion is divided on the action Congress is taking to improve the economy. About four in ten (39 percent) approve of the economic policies being passed by Congress and an almost equal number disapprove (38 percent), with the remaining 23 percent unsure.

The partisan gap continues on economic issues. Republicans are three times as likely as Democrats to rate current economic conditions positively, and more than twice as likely to think the new tax cuts will help improve the nation’s economy. Fully 51 percent of Republicans say they are better off today than they were five years ago, compared to 29 percent of Democrats.

Polling was conducted by telephone June 3-4, 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. 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 Don’t Know
3-4 Jun 03 54% 33 13
22-23 Oct 02 LV 46% 37 17
9-10 Jul 02 53% 26 21
30 Apr-1 May 02 58% 26 16
12-13 Dec 01 75% 12 13
19-20 Sep 01 71% 12 17

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 Don’t Know
3-4 Jun 03 38% 50 12
22-23 Oct 02 LV 32% 53 15
30 Apr-1 May 02 43% 44 13
12-13 Dec 01 59% 29 12
19-20 Sep 01 64% 23 13
11-12 Jul 01 33% 56 11

3. Considering just how the economy is working 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 Don’t Know
3-4 Jun 03 39% 50 11
26-27 Jan 00 78% 17 5

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

  Approve Disapprove (DK)
3-4 Jun 03 66% 26 8
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

5. What do you think is the most important issue for the federal government to address today? (DO NOT READ)

(Economy/Jobs/Unemployment) 44%
(Health Care/Prescription Drugs) 10
(Defense/Military/Homeland/National Security) 9
(Terrorism – not Iraq) 7
(Education) 5
(War/Iraq/Saddam Hussein) 4
(Social Security/Medicare) 4
(Foreign affairs/Mideast – not Iraq) 2
(Balanced budget/Deficit) 2
(Taxes) 2
(Iran) -
(N. Korea) -
(Other) 5
(Don't know/Refused) 6

6. On a scale of excellent, good, only fair and poor, how would you rate economic conditions today?
SCALE: 1. Excellent, 2. Good, 3. Only fair, 4. Poor, 5. (Not sure)

Exclnt Good Fair Poor (NS)
3-4 Jun 03 1% 19 48 31 1
8-9 Apr 03 1% 20 47 30 2
11-12 Mar 03 1% 13 41 44 1
14-15 Jan 03 1% 12 46 40 1
8-9 Oct 02 LV 5% 20 44 30 1
9-10 Jul 02 1% 23 51 24 1

8. How confident do you feel about your own personal financial future?
SCALE: 1. Very confident, 2. Somewhat confident, 3. Not very confident, 4. Not at all confident, 5. (Not sure)

Vry Smwht Ntvry Not (NS)
3-4 Jun 03 26% 48 17 6 3
9-10 Jan 02 36% 45 11 3 5
10-11 Jan 01 32% 50 10 4 4
19-20 May 99 36% 47 11 2 4

9. How would you rate your personal financial situation today compared to five years ago. Would you say your personal financial situation is better, worse or the same today as it was five years ago?

1. Better 38%
2. Worse 29
3. Same 31
4. (Not sure) 2

10. Do you approve or disapprove of the economic policies being passed by the Congress?

1. Approve 39%
2. Disapprove 38
3. (Not sure) 23

11. Last week President Bush signed a new $350 billion dollar tax cut package. Do you think the new tax cuts will help your family’s finances this year?

1. Yes 35%
2. No 59
3. (Not sure) 6

12. Do you think the new $350 billion dollar tax cut package will help or hurt the nation’s economy?

1. Help 48%
2. Hurt 33
3. (Neither) 7
4. (Not sure) 12