A Fox News poll released Friday finds increased pessimism among American voters on the economy and jobs, and lukewarm confidence things will rebound to their previous levels.
Just over half of voters — 52 percent — think the economy is getting worse. That's up 15 percentage points from the 37 percent who thought so in May, and 10 points from 42 percent a year ago (June 2009).
There's a similar negative outlook on the job front: 56 percent of voters think the job situation is getting worse, up from 48 percent in May.
And few are confident the economy will regain lost ground. More than twice as many say they are "not at all" confident (24 percent) it will recover as say they are "extremely" confident it will (10 percent).
A 54 percent majority describes their financial situation as "just able to pay most bills." Another 18 percent say they are "falling behind." About one in four says they are "getting ahead." These findings are almost identical to those when the question was last asked in September 2009.
Last week Congress passed a $34 billion dollar package to extend unemployment insurance.
By 50-39 percent, voters think it is better rather than worse for the nation's economy to extend those jobless benefits. At the same time, they're not sure it's good for the person. While 38 percent of voters think extending benefits to long-term unemployed helps them while they look for work, nearly half — 46 percent — believe this actually hurts jobless individuals because it discourages them from searching for work.
When someone has been out of work for at least two years, what's more likely to blame — the economy or the person? A third of voters (33 percent) think the economy is probably more to blame, while just over half — 52 percent — think it's probably the person's fault.
About four in 10 voters (41 percent) say they know someone who has been out of work for two years or more. Among this group, 47 percent say the person is more often responsible and 40 percent say the economy is to blame.
The National Debt
What's the greater potential threat to the country's future — high unemployment or the national debt? Views are evenly split: 43 percent of voters say the current level of unemployment, while 42 percent say the national debt.
By more than two-to-one voters think it would be better to pay off the national debt now, even if it is tougher on families (61 percent) than to wait and let future generations pay (26 percent).
The Bush Tax Cuts
A series of tax cuts that were passed at the beginning of former President George W. Bush's term are set to expire this year. Few voters think that should happen (14 percent). Most voters think the tax cuts should be continued for everyone (44 percent) or continued for everyone except families earning more than $250,000 dollars a year (36 percent).
A majority of Republicans (60 percent) and nearly half of independents (48 percent) think the tax cuts should continue for everyone. Among Democrats, the largest number — 47 percent — want the cuts to continue for all but high-income earners.
The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from July 27 to July 28. For the total sample, the poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.