U.S. mood plummets as crisis deepens: Reuters poll

HEMPSTEAD, New York Wed Oct 15, 2008 12:27pm EDT

People shop for goods at BJ's Wholesale Club store in New York, August 18, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

People shop for goods at BJ's Wholesale Club store in New York, August 18, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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HEMPSTEAD, New York (Reuters) - The global economic crisis has shaken American confidence about the future and battered the public's faith in U.S. institutions, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

The Reuters/Zogby Index, which measures the mood of the country, nosedived to 89.7 in October from 96.3 percent in September as seven of the 10 measures of public opinion used in the index dropped.

The rating stopped short of the record low of 87.7 in March but showed Americans are feeling dramatically more gloomy about the direction of the country and their personal finances.

Ratings for President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress dropped sharply. A record low of 21 percent in a Zogby poll gave positive marks to Bush's job performance, while the approval rating for Congress dipped to 10 percent -- just above its all-time low.

"It's a double-whammy -- people are concerned about today and they are worried about tomorrow," said pollster John Zogby, who likened the public mood to the early years of the Great Depression.

"It is safe to say this is the worst crisis in confidence in this country since 1932," Zogby said. "People feel like nothing in the country is working -- the president, Congress, corporations."

The survey followed weeks of economic turmoil that led to a sharp plunge in the stock market in the United States and around the world, and a $700 billion government bailout of U.S. financial institutions.

The polling, taken Thursday through Sunday, was completed before Wall Street rebounded sharply on Monday. The poll had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

'WRONG TRACK'

The number of Americans who believe the country is on the right track dropped from 25 percent last month to 18 percent, still above June's all-time Zogby poll low of 16 percent.

Ratings for the Bush administration's foreign and economic policy plummeted over the last month, with the number of people who give positive marks to economic policy falling to a paltry 7 percent from 13 percent.

The number of people who gave their personal finances positive marks fell from 52 percent to 48 percent, and the number who are proud of their country fell slightly from 91 percent to 89 percent.

"People just don't have much faith," Zogby said.

The only two measures to rise in the index over the last month were the number of people who feel safe from foreign threats, which climbed to 89 percent from 86 percent, and the number who are secure in their job, which rose to 66 percent from 64 percent.

About two-thirds of Americans said they were confident their children will have a better life, the only measure in the index that was unchanged from last month.

The index combines responses to 10 questions on Americans' views about their leaders, the direction of the country and their future.

A score above 100 indicates the public mood has improved since the July 2007 benchmark. A score below 100, like the one this month, shows the mood has soured.

The RZI is released on the third Wednesday of each month. This month's telephone poll surveyed 1,207 likely voters.

(Editing by Patricia Wilson and Cynthia Osterman)

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