While voters may have vented their anger at Washington in last year's elections and altered the balance of power, the public at large is no happier now with the way government is working, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll
conducted March 10-13.
Almost half of those surveyed -- 49 percent -- express uncertainty about "our system of government and how well it works" and what it portends for the future. Twenty-six percent said they were optimistic about how well the system of government would serve the nation and 23 percent were pessimistic, with 7 percent undecided.
The 26 percent who expressed optimism represented the lowest number in 35 years.
That compares to February 1999 when 54 percent described themselves as optimistic and 19 percent as pessimistic, with 27 percent uncertain and 1 percent undecided.
The Post/ABC finding comes on the heels of a Gallup poll
conducted March 3-6 that showed the percentage of Americans who approved of the way Congress is doing its job dropping to 18 percent, after being in the low 20s in January and February.
Much of the sour outlook appears to stem from public perceptions of the economy, but there are also strong signs of disgruntlement with Republicans, who captured the House last November and strengthened their position in the Senate.
Fifty-three percent do not believe that the economy has begun to recover compared to 46 percent who think it has, with 1 percent undecided. While a majority still holds that view, it is an improvement over December when 57 percent said they saw no improvement.
Forty-nine percent said the economic stimulus program pushed through the last Congress by President Obama and the Democrats had no effect on the economy. Twenty-eight percent said it helped and 21 percent said it had hurt.
Fifty-five percent disapproved of Obama's handling of the economy compared to 43 percent who approved, with 2 percent undecided. That represented an uptick in the percentage of those who disapproved of the job Obama was doing on the economy, and his worst showing since last September.
But that was not necessarily good news for Republicans. Forty-six percent trusted Obama more than the Republicans to do a better job handling the economy compared to 34 percent who believed the Republicans would do a better job, with the remainder answering "both" or "neither."
Those surveyed said Obama represented their values more than the Republicans by a 46 percent to 41 percent margin, with 1 percent undecided. Forty-seven percent said Obama better understood the economic problems people were having than the Republicans, compared to 35 percent who said the Republicans understood better, with the remainder answering both or neither.
ABC polling analyst Gary Langer said
, "The drop in trust to handle the economy has occurred chiefly among independents, now drawing away from the GOP after rallying to its side. As recently as January, 42 percent of independents preferred the Republicans in Congress over Obama to handle the economy. Today just 29 percent say the same, and there's been a rise in the number who volunteer that they don't trust either side."
Another possible factor in the overall gloom about government is the continuing war in Afghanistan. Sixty-four percent of Americans do not believe the war is worth fighting, a number that has been rising steadily since last April, when it stood at 52 percent.
Seventy-three percent said the U.S. should withdraw a substantial number of combat troops by this summer. Eighty-seven percent of Democrats held that view
, as did 78 percent of independents. Fifty-six percent of Republicans, who have been more supportive than Democrats of the war effort, said the U.S. should withdraw troops.
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