NEW YORK (April 4) - More than 80 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, the highest such number since the early 1990s, according to a new survey.
The CBS News-New York Times poll released Thursday showed 81 percent of respondents said they believed "things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track." That was up from 69 percent a year ago, and 35 percent in early 2002.
The survey comes as housing turmoil has rocked Wall Street amid an economic downturn. The economy has surpassed the war in Iraq as the dominating issue of the U.S. presidential race, and there is now nearly a national consensus that the United States faces significant problems, the poll found.
A majority of Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school say the United States is headed in the wrong direction, according to the survey, which was published on The New York Times' Web site.
Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was doing better.
The newspaper said Americans are more dissatisfied with the country's direction than at any time since the poll's inception in the early 1990s. Only 21 percent of respondents said the overall economy was in good condition, the lowest such number since late 1992. Two in three people said they believed the economy was already in recession.
Still, the approval rating of President George W. Bush did not change since last summer, with 28 percent of respondents saying they approved of the job he was doing.
The poll also found that Americans blame government officials for the housing crisis more than banks or home buyers and other borrowers. Forty percent of respondents said regulators were mostly to blame, while 28 percent named lenders and 14 percent named borrowers.
Americans favored help for people but not for financial institutions in assessing possible responses to the mortgage crisis. A clear majority said they did not want the government to lend a hand to banks, even if the measures would help limit the depth of a recession.
Respondents were considerably more open to government help for homeowners at risk of foreclosure. Fifty-three percent said they believed the government should help those whose interest rates were rising, while 41 percent said they opposed such a move.