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Bloomberg Poll: Seventy-One Percent of Americans See Economy

July 14, 2010

  Bloomberg Poll: Seventy-One Percent of Americans See Economy Mired in

      Seven out of Ten Americans Say Reducing Unemployment Is Priority;
        More than Half Say the Deficit is ‘Dangerously Out of Control’

  Higher Taxes on Upper Income Americans Only Deficit Reduction Measure that
                             Gets Strong Support

Business Wire

NEW YORK -- July 14, 2010

More than 7 out of 10 Americans (71%) say the economy is mired in recession,
and the country is conflicted over how to balance concerns over joblessness
and the federal budget deficit, according to a Bloomberg National Poll.

Just like the experts, Americans are torn about whether the federal government
should focus on curbing spending or creating jobs, the poll conducted July
9-12 shows. Seven of 10 Americans (70%) say reducing unemployment is the
priority. At the same time, the public is skeptical of the Obama
administration’s stimulus program and wary of more spending, with more than
half (52%) saying the deficit is “dangerously out of control.”

The story is on at:

“They’re just running out of patience,” says J. Ann Selzer, president of
Selzer & Co., a Des Moines, Iowa-based company that conducted the survey. “The
number they’re seeing change is the deficit. It’s rising at what seems like an
astronomical rate. The number that seems intractable is the unemployment

The Obama administration expects a record budget deficit this year of more
than $1.5 trillion, or 10.6 percent of GDP, according to projections the White
House released in February. The U.S. deficit is a greater percentage of GDP
than any other major industrialized nation except the U.K., where it is
estimated to reach 11.4 percent, and Ireland, where it will be 12.2 percent,
according to International Monetary Fund projections released in April.

The only deficit-reduction measure that gets strong support in the poll is
higher taxes on upper-income Americans. Forty-one percent “strongly consider”
this measure.

Four months ahead of the midterm congressional elections, the poll’s results
show a challenging climate for Democrats. The public mood is bleak, with 63
percent saying they believe the country is on the wrong track, the most
negative reading of Obama’s presidency. After a year of economic growth, 71
percent say the economy is still in recession; another 13 percent say the
economy is faltering and will dip back into recession.

Only 1 in 6 (17%) say they believe they are personally better off than they
were 18 months ago, when President Barack Obama took office. They are more apt
to see the economy today as deteriorating than improving.

More than half (54%) say they are responding to the economic climate by
hunkering down. Fewer than a quarter (23%) say they are getting back to normal
and only 16 percent are seeing opportunity and taking risks. The public’s
posture is more pessimistic than the view of global investors polled a month
earlier. In a poll of Bloomberg customers conducted June 2-3, more than twice
as many respondents -- 35 percent -- said they are seeing opportunities and
taking risks.

The divergence in the outlooks of the general population and investors fits
the way each group is experiencing the economic cycle. The public confronts an
unemployment rate hovering near a 26-year high, home values and retirement
portfolio balances that remain below pre-recession levels, and the debt crisis
in Europe that threatens the global recovery.

The public’s perception is gloomier than some recent economic data: The U.S.
economy has been growing for a year, first-quarter corporate profits were up
more than 33 percent from a year earlier and research published in 1980 by
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke points to the possibility of “an
investment boom” following resolution of uncertainty such as the jitters
provoked by the crisis in Europe. In addition, investors have benefited from a
rise of more than 36 percent in the S&P 500 stock index since Obama took
office even after the recent turmoil in the markets.

Tax Cuts

The public gives the Obama administration little credit for its tax cuts,
which according to the Washington-based Tax Policy Center lowered federal
income taxes for 93 percent of filers. Asked to compare their federal income
taxes to what they paid during George W. Bush’s presidency, only 7 percent say
they are lower; 20 percent say their taxes are higher and 65 percent say they
are about the same.

Americans’ anxieties over the economy are reflected in the top issues they see
facing the country: Unemployment and jobs, cited by 41 percent, and the
federal deficit, cited by 26 percent, dwarfed other concerns. Few Democrats
share the concern over the deficit, with just 7 percent choosing it as the top
issue -- last in a list of five -- versus 44 percent of Republicans and 31
percent of independents.

The two big priorities are reversed among respondents who say they will
definitely vote in November and say the election is exceptionally important. A
41 percent plurality name the deficit as the top issue, compared with 33
percent who pick jobs among those who say they are intensely interested in the
November congressional elections. Respondents who describe themselves as
Republicans say they are more likely to vote, the poll shows.

Stimulus Package

The White House hasn’t made much progress in selling its $862 billion economic
stimulus package. Asked how their opinion of the stimulus has changed in
recent months, respondents were divided about evenly among those who say they
had become more supportive, those who are less supportive and those who
haven’t changed their opinion.

Other high-profile spending plans undertaken in the wake of the financial
crisis have fared worse. The assistance package to automobile companies is
becoming less popular: 48 percent say they had become less supportive in
recent months versus 17 percent who say they have become more supportive.

By a two-to-one margin, the public classifies the $700 billion Troubled Asset
Relief Plan that Congress passed in 2008 as the financial industry teetered as
an “unneeded bailout” rather than “necessary.”

Tax Options

Asked about a range of options to cut the budget deficit, the public is
willing to consider removing the cap on earnings covered by the Social
Security tax, currently set at just under $107,000, and eliminating tax cuts
for the wealthy enacted under Bush.

The public opposes a 2 percentage point increase in income tax rates on the
middle class, cutbacks in Social Security or Medicare benefits, though 52
percent say they would at least consider an increase in the eligibility age
for Medicare to 67 from 65.

The public is divided on cuts in spending on defense, education, public
housing, regulatory agencies or public works and on discontinuing extensions
of unemployment benefits to help close the deficit.

Perceptions of the economy’s performance split sharply along party lines. A 48
percent plurality of Democrats say the economy is getting better. Only 17
percent of Republicans and 19 percent of independents see an improving

Young Voters

Younger Americans also had a slightly more positive read on the economy, with
31 percent of people under 35 saying they believe it is improving. Middle-aged
Americans had the most negative reading, with only 24 percent describing the
economy as getting better. Among those over 55, 28 percent say the economy is

Voters in Western states also were more pessimistic, with 24 percent seeing an
improving economy versus 27 percent in the Midwest, 29 percent in the
Northeast and 30 percent in the South.

Methodology: The Bloomberg National Poll is based on interviews with 1,004
U.S. adults ages 18 or older. Percentages based on the full sample may have a
maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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