Washington: President Barack Obama earned his lowest marks ever on his handling of the economy in a new Associated Press-GfK poll, which also found that an overwhelming majority of Americans now describe the nation`s financial outlook as poor.
A frustrated electorate could take it out on the party in power — Obama`s Democrats — in the November elections.
Eleven weeks before the Nov. 2 balloting, just 41 percent of those surveyed approve of the president`s performance on the economy, down from 44 percent in April, while 56 percent disapprove. And 61 percent say the economy has gotten worse or stayed the same on Obama`s watch.
Still, three-quarters also say it`s unrealistic to expect noticeable economic improvements in the first 18 months of the president`s term. And Obama`s overall approval rating was unaffected; it remained at 49 percent, in part because most Americans still like him personally.
Americans` dim view of the economy grew even more pessimistic this summer as the nation`s unemployment rate stubbornly hovered near 10 percent. That`s been a drag on both Obama and Democrats, who control Congress.
"The economy is on life support," says Scott Bradley, 38, general manager of a carpet store in Columbia, Mo. Bradley says he voted for Obama in 2008 but he wouldn`t again. He blames Congress for the unemployment woes but says, "Obama`s policies are making the economy worse."
Even staunch Obama backers like college student Julius Taylor of Flint, Mich., struggle to stay optimistic about the economy, particularly when they see the recession`s toll in their backyard. "I`d like to say it`s improving, but there are a lot of indicators it`s not," says Taylor, 25.
Viewpoints like those have Democrats on edge as they try to hang onto comfortable majorities in the House and Senate in a political environment made ever more challenging by economic woes.
Republicans are trying to convince Americans that the GOP can create the jobs that Obama hasn`t delivered. Obama and his Democrats are pleading for the frustrated public to give them more time to prove that their economic fixes will work.
"The truth is, it`s going to take a few years to fully dig ourselves out of this recession. It`s going to take time to bring back 8 million jobs," the president said Tuesday while campaigning for Democratic candidates in Seattle. "Anybody who tells you otherwise is just looking for your vote."
Democrats are keenly aware that they face strong headwinds; 60 percent of people say the country`s headed in the wrong direction. And it`s hard to overstate the importance of the economy to voters; 91 percent of Americans say it`s a top problem, with unemployment close behind.
A whopping 81 percent of people now call the economy poor or very poor, up from 72 percent in June, and just 12 percent say it has improved in the past month, compared with 19 percent in June. Both are record measurements since AP-GfK started asking those questions.