Voters unhappy with Bush; Congress: Reuters poll

WASHINGTON Wed Jul 18, 2007 8:34am EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most U.S. voters think the country is on the wrong track and remain deeply unhappy with President George W. Bush and Congress, but still feel good about their finances and optimistic about the future, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

Eighteen months before Bush leaves the White House, nearly two-thirds of Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction and give the president negative marks for his job performance.

An even bigger majority, 83 percent, say the Democratic-controlled Congress is doing only a fair or poor job -- the worst mark for Congress in a Zogby poll.

But despite their dim views of government, majorities of Americans remain upbeat about their personal finances and security, and nearly two-thirds are very or fairly confident their children will have a better life than they do.

Pollster John Zogby said the split between voters' views of government and of their personal well-being has grown in recent years, particularly after the failed federal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"Americans feel their government is not accomplishing the people's business," Zogby said. "They feel the system is seriously broken."

In the national survey of 1,012 likely voters, taken July 12 through July 14, about 66 percent said Bush had done only a fair or poor job as president, with 34 percent ranking his performance as excellent or good.

That is up slightly from his low of 30 percent in early March and in line with other national polls showing Bush's approval ratings lingering at or near historically low levels amid continued chaos and bloodshed in Iraq.

But the marks for Congress, mired in gridlock over a series of partisan political battles after Democrats took power in the 2006 elections, continued to drop.

While 83 percent said Congress was doing a fair or poor job, just 14 percent rated it excellent or good. Last October, in its final days, the Republican-led Congress earned ratings of excellent or good from 23 percent of voters.

"There is a growing sense that people voted for change in 2006 and they aren't getting it," Zogby said.

The poll showed only 26 percent of Americans thought the United States was on the right track and 64 percent thought it was on the wrong track.

Americans also have little confidence in U.S. foreign and economic policy. Two-thirds of those surveyed, 66 percent, said the direction of economic policy was fair or poor, and 76 percent said U.S. foreign policy was headed in a fair or poor direction.

But on a personal level, Americans feel relatively secure and comfortable with their own finances and safety. Nearly 82 percent of Americans said they feel very or fairly safe from "threats from abroad," and nearly 70 percent feel very or fairly secure in their jobs.

While 14 percent rated their personal financial situation as excellent and 10 percent as poor, the vast majority found themselves in the middle. About 43 percent rated their finances as good, and 43 percent as fair.

"Americans have made a serious adjustment. Their expectations have been tempered," Zogby said. "With little faith in government, you feel you are pretty much on your own."

Several years of headlines about possible torture of U.S. detainees, treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center and international anger over the Iraq war has not dented the pride of Americans.

About two-thirds of the likely voters surveyed said they were "very" proud of the United States, with 22 percent saying they were "fairly" proud and 8 percent saying they were not very proud of their country.

The national telephone survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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