Poll: Americans Optimistic About Economy

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Most Americans think winning the war with Iraq helped in the campaign against terrorism and a growing number are optimistic the economy will now improve, a poll says.

That growing optimism does not extend to President Bush's tax cuts (search). Many people are not convinced his plan will help the economy.

The number of people who think the economy will get better has increased from 30 percent in January to 43 percent now, while 19 percent think it will get worse, the poll by the Pew Research Center (search) for the People & the Press finds. The rest thought it would remain about the same.

"More people are thinking things are going to turn around," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "The same thing happened in 1991 (after the Persian Gulf War) even more dramatically. There was a boost in consumer confidence in 1991 and again in 2003. It proved to be short-lived a dozen years ago."

The struggling economy in the early 1990s helped lead to the defeat of Bush's father by Democrat Bill Clinton.

The public now feels better about its economic prospects and two-thirds feel the war helped in the campaign against terrorism. The poll of 1,201 adults was taken April 30-May 4 and had an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

People were evenly divided on Bush's proposal to cut taxes, and they thought it would mainly benefit the wealthy and increase the deficit. Seven in 10 said the tax cuts would benefit some people much more than others.

"The president, despite his personal popularity and his success with the war, has not been able to light a fire with the public about these tax cuts," Kohut said. "They're not linking the improvement of the economy to Bush's tax plan. If the economy does not improve, that could become a problem."

The president's job approval was 65 percent, down slightly from a month ago when it was in the mid-70s.

Asked their impressions of Bush, people were most likely to say that he was "honest," "a leader" and a "good" person. The negative description mentioned most often was arrogant.

Kohut said Bush is benefiting from the public's lack of interest in the Democratic Party's (search) campaign for president.

About a fourth in the poll, 27 percent, said they were at least fairly interested in the Democratic race for president. At about the same stage in 1995, about four in 10 were interested.

"Even by early standards of past campaigns," Kohut said, "the Democrats are really invisible."