The stock market has plunged to its lowest point in decades, unemployment is up, and home foreclosures are sweeping the country. Still, Americans think it can get even worse -- a lot worse. Fully 61 percent of Americans think it is possible the United States government could literally go bankrupt. That's according to a new Fox News poll released Thursday.
And what about the billions of dollars the government has spent since last fall to get the economy back on track? Many Americans think its simply not working: 44 percent say "things would be the same as they are today or even better" without the spending, while 38 percent think "things could have been a lot worse," without the spending. Another 14 percent think it is too soon to tell.
Some 60 percent of Americans now describe themselves as confident "about the future security of your job," down from 64 percent in September 2008 and 82 percent in October 2007.
Lower earning workers are the least confident in their job security. Nearly half (45 percent) of households with annual incomes under $50,000 are confident in their job security, compared to 70 percent of higher earning households.
Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from March 3 - March 4, 2009. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
Even with these growing concerns about financial stability at the national and household levels, most Americans remain optimistic that the policies of President Obama will provide some relief.
A 63 percent majority of Americans believe Obama's priorities and policies are more likely to "significantly help the country," while 25 percent believe they are more likely to "seriously harm the country." Democrats nearly unanimously (90 percent) believe Obama's policies will help, as do 61 percent of independents and 32 percent of Republicans. A 54 percent majority of Republicans think Obama's policies will seriously harm the country.
Americans think positive results of President Obama's policies are most likely to be evident in the form of new jobs, followed by positive developments in the housing and stock markets.
Over two-thirds (70 percent) of Americans think it is at least somewhat likely that the economic stimulus and spending bill recently passed by Congress will "create new jobs." A 58 percent majority thinks the bill will "stabilize the housing market," and half (50 percent) of Americans think it will "reverse the stock market decline."
Republicans are much less likely than Democrats or independents to believe the economic stimulus and spending bill will create jobs (49 percent of Republicans), stabilize the housing market (31 percent), or reverse the stock market decline (24 percent).
The partisan differences regarding the likely outcome of Obama's proposals are underpinned by sharp ideological differences about tax policy and wealth, which are also evident in these poll results.
Most Democrats (75 percent) and independents (60 percent) think it is a good idea to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay more in taxes "because it levels the economic and social playing field," while two-thirds of Republicans (66 percent) think it is "a bad idea because it punishes hard work and success."
Finally, these poll results point to a very personal reason why some Democrats and independents may support higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans -- they think they are greedy.
Among all Americans, 36 percent think rich people are more likely to be "greedy," and 36 percent think they are more likely to be "generous," while another 25 percent say it depends. Democrats (44 percent greedy to 24 percent generous) and independents (39 percent greedy to 29 percent generous) are more likely to think rich people are greedy, while the opposite is true among Republicans (23 percent greedy to 57 percent generous).
Chris Anderson is a vice president at Opinion Dynamics Corporation