The Horse Races Are Close, But Pessimism About Country Is Clear

Posted April 3, 2008 at 10:42pm

A New York Times/CBS News poll has some big headlines: Americans are unhappier about the direction of the country than they have been in more than a decade, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are effectively tied in the Democratic race although Democrats appear more enthusiastic about him than Clinton, and both Democrats lead John McCain in general election match-ups, although by modest margins showing that the November race looks competitive. The poll was conducted March 28- April 2.

Let’s start with the horse races and then we’ll get to the grim state of mind of Americans that is reported in this survey.

– Obama leads Clinton 46 percent to 43 percent, compared to February when Obama, coming off a long string of victories, had led Clinton 54 percent to 38 percent. The margin of error is 4 percent.
– The “softening” of Obama’s standing is marked among men and high-income voters. Obama’s margin over Clinton among men has dropped from 67 percent to 28 percent in February to 47 percent to 42 percent. His favorability rating – although still high at 62 percent – has dropped 7 points since late February. But the decline for Obama does not add up to the kind of plummet that the Clinton campaign needs.
– Over half of Democrats sampled believe he has a better chance of beating McCain in November, and most expect him to win the nomination.
– Obama leads McCain 47 percent to 42 percent, compared to 50 percent to 38 percent in February. Clinton leads McCain 48 percent to 43 percent. The margin of error is 3 percent.
– Eighty-one percent of Americans believe “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track” compared to 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in 2003. A majority of nearly every major demographic and political group subscribed to this view. This was the highest figure in this poll dating back to 1991.
– Seventy-eight percent said the country was worse off than it was five years ago. This was the highest figure ever in this poll.
– About a fifth of Americans said the economy was in good condition, the lowest number since 1992 after the country had come out of a recession.
– Twenty percent said the most important economic problem facing the U.S. today were fuel costs and 11 percent said jobs and the economy. Those were the two top concerns with all others in single digits. Click here for a round-up of what the candidates are saying on the economy.