U.S. voters say they are worse off than 2004: poll

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A plurality of U.S. voters heading into the November presidential election said they are worse off than they were four years ago, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday.

NBC reported that this was the first time since 1992 that a majority of voters answered “no” when asked “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

Forty-three percent of respondents said they were worse off, compared with 34 percent who said they were better off and 21 percent who said their status was the same, NBC reported.

By contrast, strong pluralities or majorities said that they were better off before entering the general elections in 1996, 2000 and 2004, NBC said.

But Democrats, who are trying to take back the White House after eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency, remain divided over who they want to take on presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain in the November 4 general election, NBC said.

In the poll, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York led Illinois Sen. Barack Obama by 47 percent to 43 percent. Although Clinton tops the poll, Obama is viewed among Democrats as the one with the better chance of defeating McCain, NBC said.

However, the poll shows that both Clinton and Obama would run close contests against the Arizona senator.

In hypothetical matchups, Obama leads McCain by 47 percent to 44 percent, and Clinton leads McCain by 47 percent to 45 percent, the poll found.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of 1,012 registered voters was conducted from March 7 to 10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Writing by JoAnne Allen; editing by Mohammad Zargham