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Views Of Economy Remaining Consistently Downbeat

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Most respondents in poll said the nation's economy was either only fair or poor.
Most respondents in poll said the nation's economy was either only fair or poor.

From the Congressional Connection Poll, conducted by Pew Research Center:

By Jason Dick

President Obama quickly seized on last week's job numbers report to tout his administration's efforts on the economy. But he still has a way to go with the public, according to the latest Society for Human Resource Management/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center.

Thirty-five percent of those surveyed said the president's economic policies have had no effect, and 29 percent said they have made things worse. Twenty-three percent said they have made things better. And perhaps making the president's task even harder, the public's perceptions of their own financial situation have changed remarkably little from the darkest days of the recession in 2008 to now, when the economy has begun to show signs of improvement.

Obama wasted little time after the Labor Department reported Friday morning that the nation gained 431,000 jobs in April and that there was a slight drop in the unemployment rate, from 9.9 to 9.7 percent.

Trekking out to Hyattsville, Md., to K Neal International Trucks, Inc., the president said, "The economic policies that we put in place are working. An economy that was shrinking at a scary rate when I was sworn in as president has now been growing for three consecutive quarters. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month during the winter of last year. We've now added jobs for six out of the last seven months."

And while Christina Romer, chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, cautioned in a White House blog post that "as always, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative," the company line was clear from the White House.

"It is essential that we continue our efforts to move in the right direction and generate steady, strong job gains and continuing declines in unemployment," she wrote.

But the poll suggests there has been little movement recently in public perception of how the administration's policies are shaping the economy. A similar poll conducted by Pew from Feb. 3-9 showed the number of adults saying the president's policies had made things worse was 27 percent, while 24 percent said they had made things better -- a wash.

What slight movement there was in perception came from those responding that Obama's policies were having no effect. In that earlier survey, 42 percent said his policies had no effect, 7 percent higher than the most recent survey.

The view of the president's agenda is likely being dragged down by people's overall perceptions of the economy. In general, it's pretty bleak.

The overwhelming number of respondents said the nation's economy was either only fair or poor, with 48 percent saying fair and 43 percent poor.

There is some positive movement in the public perception there, though. An April 21-26 Pew survey showed 39 percent said the economy was only fair and 49 percent said poor. But the number of respondents rating the economy as good was a small number indeed: Eight percent in the most recent survey, compared to 11 percent in the April poll.

And the public is generally pessimistic about the direction of the economy.

Fifty percent in this latest Congressional Connection Poll said it will be a long time before the economy recovers, and 35 percent said the economy is not recovering, but they expect it will recover soon. That compared to only 13 percent saying the economy is recovering. Those numbers haven't budged much from a March 10-14 Pew poll asking the same question.

People's views of their own economic situations are a bit more divided. When asked to rate their personal financial situation, 38 percent said only fair, 32 percent said good and 20 percent said poor. Only 6 percent said they were in excellent shape. Those numbers also have not budged much from the March 10-14 Pew survey.

And, in fact, they haven't moved much over the last year. A June 10-14 Pew poll found that 39 percent said their own financial situation was only fair, 32 percent said good and 22 percent said poor.

Perhaps even more disturbing for members of the Obama administration, such numbers extend even further back, to the last months of the presidency of George W. Bush, a figure the current White House has gone to great pains to distance itself from.

In early October 2008, with the economy in free-fall and credit markets seized up, a Pew survey showed that 40 percent of the public said their personal financial situation was only fair, 35 percent said it was good and 18 percent said it was poor. Such similar numbers to the current Congressional Connection Poll show how steep a climb the president and his economic team have if they want to convince Americans the Obama agenda is working.

The poll of 1,002 adults who were reached by landline or cell phone was conducted Thursday through Sunday and has a 4-point error margin.

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