Poll: Economy Beyond Tweaking — Needs Big Jolt

Almost all Americans think the country's economy today is in bad shape, and a plurality ranks the economy as a higher priority for the federal government than the war on terrorism.

The latest FOX News poll, conducted January 14-15 by Opinion Dynamics Corp., shows that few Americans rate the current condition of the economy positively.  Today, 13 percent think the economy is in excellent or good shape, down from 24 percent six months ago and 28 percent last January.  Overwhelmingly the public says the economy is in only fair (46 percent) or poor (40 percent) shape.

These results lead a majority to say the economy needs a "big jolt" (60 percent) as opposed to "minor tweaking" (27 percent).  What that jolt should include is the trillion-dollar question.

Last week, President Bush announced a 10-year plan to help stimulate the economy, including over $670 billion in tax cuts.  Majorities favor all elements of the Bush economic and tax plan with one exception -- the stock dividend tax cut.  The dividend aspect, which is one of the largest pieces of the White House proposal, is favored by a plurality (47 percent) but received the lowest level of support of all the elements and is opposed by fully 37 percent of the population.

The highest level of support is for tax cuts for small businesses, with fully 88 percent in favor of this proposal.  Increasing the child tax credit for parents is favored by 78 percent, followed by ending the marriage tax penalty (74 percent favor), ending the tax on estates (67 percent favor), and accelerating tax cuts that had been planned for future years (54 percent favor).

There is bipartisan support for cutting taxes on small businesses, increasing the tax credit for families with children, and eliminating the additional taxes married couples pay.  Party differences are much more evident on some of the other proposals.  Republicans are more likely to favor eliminating the double taxation on stock dividends (60 percent) than are Democrats (32 percent), and also more strongly favor making the tax cuts that were scheduled for future years effective immediately (68 percent of Republicans favor and 42 percent of Democrats).

Overall, the public is divided on whether President Bush's proposed tax cuts are good for people in their situation.  When asked if the cuts are fair "to people like you," 38 percent say fair and 42 percent say unfair; however, there are large differences between the parties on this question.  Sixty-four percent of Republicans say the president's proposed cuts are fair compared to only 15 percent of Democrats.

It's unclear to some Americans what distinguishes the president's economic plan from the one proposed by Congressional Democrats.  Over one-quarter admits they do not know the difference between the two plans.

The Republican plan has a slight edge when it comes to helping the economy, with 36 percent saying the Bush plan is more likely to make the economy grow compared to 32 percent who think the Democrats' plan will boost the economy.   Keeping your money in your pocket is a place the Republicans get the nod.  Forty-one percent think GOPers want individuals "to keep more of your own money" while 30 percent think the Democrats and 12 percent say neither party wants you to keep your money in your pocket.

"After 9/11, partisans across the spectrum rallied behind the president and that carried over on issues like the economy and other domestic policy concerns," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "Now it is clear on the economy and taxes that partisan differences are reappearing as strongly as ever."

Both the Republicans and Democrats receive equal doses of skepticism about what motivated their proposed plans.  When asked which political party's plan is more likely to be based on politics than on what is good for the country, about one-third of the public says the Republicans' plan, one-third says the Democrats' plan, and 16 percent say both plans were based on politics.

Today, 63 percent of the public approve and 28 disapprove of the job Bush is doing as president.  While still impressive, the president's job approval rating has been on a gradual decline.  Six months ago about 70 percent approved of Bush's job performance and a year ago 83 percent approved.

If former President Bill Clinton were still president today, 39 percent think he would be doing a better job than Bush handling the economy, 29 percent say Clinton would be doing a worse job and 28 percent think their job performances would be about the same.

When asked the same question but focused on handling the war on terrorism, 24 percent think Clinton would be outperforming Bush, 48 percent think Clinton would be doing a worse job and 22 percent think there would be no difference between the two.

Iraq and North Korea

Iraq is seen as more of a threat to the United States, but North Korea isn't far behind.  About 40 percent of the public think Iraq poses the greater immediate threat, 33 percent say North Korea is the bigger problem and 18 percent see both countries as equally threatening to Americans.

A majority of Americans remain in support of disarming Iraq and removing Saddam from power (67 percent support, 25 percent oppose).  As has been the case in the past, Republicans are much stronger supporters of taking military action against Iraq than are Democrats (82 percent and 52 percent respectively).

Few people think Saddam will resign and go into exile.  Fully 78 percent think it is more likely that the United States will go to war with Iraq than think Saddam will go into exile and war will be prevented (10 percent).

Polling was conducted by telephone January 14-15, 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?

2. Of the following issues, which one do you think should be the highest priority for the federal government right now? (ROTATE)

3. If Bill Clinton were still president today, do you think he would be doing a better job than President Bush handling the war on terrorism, a worse job, or about the same kind of job as Bush?

4. If Bill Clinton were still president today, do you think he would be doing a better job than President Bush handling the economy, a worse job, or about the same kind of job as Bush?

5. On a scale of excellent, good, only fair and poor, how would you rate economic conditions today?

6. A year from now, do you think the economy will be better or worse? Is that a lot (better/worse) or only a little (better/worse)?

7. Do you think the economy today needs a big jolt or a minor tweaking?

8. What is the maximum percentage of a person's income that should go to taxes - that's all taxes - state, federal and local? Out of every dollar, what's the highest percentage anybody should have to pay?
SCALE: 1. Less than 20 percent, 2. 21-30 percent, 3. 31-40 percent, 4. 41-50 percent, 5. 51-60 percent, 6. Whatever the government wants to take, 7. (Not sure)

9. Based on what you know about the economic plan President Bush proposed last week, do you think the president's proposed tax cuts are fair or unfair to people like you?

10-15. Do you favor or oppose each of the following economic proposals:

16. The Democrats in Congress have also proposed an economic and tax plan. From what you know about the Bush economic plan and the Democrats' economic plan, which plan do you think you would prefer?

17. Which political party -- (the Republicans) or (the Democrats) -- do you think wants you to keep more of your own money? (ROTATE)

18. Which political party's economic and tax proposal do you think is more likely to make the economy grow? (ROTATE)

19. Which political party's economic and tax proposal do you think is more likely to be based on politics rather than on what is good for the country? (ROTATE)

20. Which country do you think poses the greatest immediate threat to the United States -- Iraq or North Korea? (ROTATE)

21. Do you support or oppose U.S. military action TO DISARM IRAQ AND REMOVE Iraqi President Saddam Hussein?

** Wording: " . . .to disarm Iraq and . . ."
* Wording: " . . .action against Iraq and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein"

22. What do you think is more likely -- the United States will go to war against Iraq or Iraqi Leader Saddam Hussein will resign and go into exile preventing a war?

23. In general, do you think immigrants who come to the United States today help the country and make it a better place to live or hurt the country and make it a worse place to live?

24. If it becomes clear that more soldiers are needed in the war against terrorism, would you approve or disapprove of re-instituting the military draft?

25. Do you think the federal government is doing enough to secure the country's borders?