Times Trumpets Poll Showing Americans Think US "On Wrong Track"

One question just added to the NYT/CBS News poll: "From what you know, how much do you think the cost of the war in Iraq has contributed to the U.S. economic problems - a lot, some, not much or not at all?"

Friday's Times lead with the findings from the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, as reported by David Leonhardt and Marjorie Connelly, "81% In Poll Say Nation Is Headed On Wrong Track."

For whatever reason, polls by the Times and other media outlets almost always survey more Democrats than Republicans. But the spread of today's poll is the widest ever for a Times poll, a 15 percentage point difference,with 26% of respondents identifying themselves as Republicans compared to 41% Democrat. (Despite that skew, both Obama and Clinton only beat McCain by 5 points in the paper's hypothetical matchups.)

Americans are more dissatisfied with the country's direction than at any time since the New York Times/CBS News poll began asking about the subject in the early 1990s, according to the latest poll.


The unhappiness presents clear risks for Republicans in this year's elections, given the continued unpopularity of President Bush. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they approved of the job he was doing, a number that has barely changed since last summer. But Democrats, who have controlled the House and Senate since last year, also face the risk that unhappy voters will punish Congressional incumbents.

Once again, the Times slapped a "populist" label on the liberal idea of blaming business and advocating tax money to bail out individual mortgage holders.

In assessing possible responses to the mortgage crisis, Americans displayed a populist streak, favoring help for individuals but not for financial institutions. 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.


Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they would support raising taxes on households making more than $250,000 to pay for tax cuts or government programs for people making less than that amount. Only 38 percent called it a bad idea. Both Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidates, have made proposals along these lines.

More broadly, 43 percent of those surveyed said they would prefer a larger government that provided more services, which is tied for the highest such number since The Times and CBS News began asking the question in 1991. But an identical 43 percent said they wanted a smaller government that provided fewer services.

One new poll question in particular truly "leads the witness" by attempting to link the economy to another bad news story (according to the Times) Iraq.

Question 71: From what you know, how much do you think the cost of the war in Iraq has contributed to the U.S. economic problems - a lot, some, not much or not at all?

Faced with that slant, it's no surprise that a whopping 67% of respondents chose the answer "A lot." (Economists don't agree.)