How gloomy Americans are about the direction of the country and President George W. Bush’s leadership depends on how much money they make.
Of all Americans, 23% said the country is on the right track, a 15-year low, according to a new Bloomberg poll. Among those with higher incomes, 43% said the country is on the right path. Three-fifths of Americans disapproved of the job Bush is doing, compared with 38% who approved. Among those with household income higher than $100,000, the gap is smaller, with 53% disapproving and 46% approving.
“That’s the history of the world and it’s also the history of the United States,” said Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Public opinion “is always very directly related to how well you’re doing and how well you think you’re going to do.”
The 3-11 March survey followed the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s 27 February fall, its worst in four years, and was conducted during a week when vice president Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff was convicted of perjury and a scandal erupted over conditions at the Army’s Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington.
In certain areas, the differences between the affluent and the general population were particularly sharp. Asked about the impact of free-trade policies, a plurality of all Americans said they have hurt the economy, while a plurality of high earners said they have been beneficial.
Wealthier Americans also have a more favourable opinion of Bush’s handling of the economy, with 52% approving of Bush’s record, while just 43% of all Americans approve. About 2 in 10 US households have income of more than $100,000(Rs44 lakh).
On the Iraq war, more high earners approved of Bush’s policies and they were significantly more critical of a Democratic plan to withdraw troops by March of next year. Of high earners, 49% oppose the plan, compared to just 39% of all Americans. Evan Davidson, a 44-year-old financial firm recruiter who participated in the poll, said in a follow-up interview that Bush deserves to be judged on issues other than the war.
“The economy is doing fairly well, the market is doing extremely well,” said Davidson, an independent who lives in Grapevine, Texas. “It’s had a few corrections, which is normal. Overall there’s a lot of money out there for investing.”
Still, on some issues, higher-income households expressed similar levels of pessimism as the general public. For instance, roughly 7 in 10 said the gap between the rich and the poor in the US has become a serious problem. That’s in line with the 81% of all Americans who said it’s a grave concern.
“I’m worried about the middle class disappearing,” said Anna Fugate, a 42-year-old jewelry designer from Fort Wayne, Indiana, whose household takes in more than $100,000 a year. getting worse, at least people around me are doing worse,” said Fugate, an independent.
A large majority of affluent respondents also voiced scepticism about Bush’s pledge to balance the Federal budget in five years while continuing to fund military and reconstruction programmes in Iraq and making his tax cuts permanent. Only 65% of high earners called that goal unrealistic, compared to 74% of all Americans who said so.
Finally, 83% of wealthier Americans agreed with the 86% of the general public that said most chief executives of large American companies are paid too much.
In the poll of 2,269 adults, 39% with incomes above $100,000 said they wereRepublican, while 28% said they were independent and 26% identified themselves as Democrats.
Bush is still struggling to maintain majority support from some of his most loyal constituents. While wealthy Americans viewed him more favorably than less well-off respondents, Bush scored lower than 50% on questions about overall job performance and Iraq policy. On the economy, his majority was within the poll’s two percentage-point margin of error.