8 in 10 say U.S. economy in poor shape



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Eight in ten Americans say that the economy is in poor shape, but that's an improvement from a year ago, according to a new national poll.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey's Tuesday release comes as the government reports that economic growth in the third quarter was much weaker than previously estimated.

According to the poll, 80% of Americans say economic conditions are poor. As bad as that sounds, it's a 13 point decline from last December. 20% of the people questioned in the survey say economic conditions are good, up 12 points from a year ago.

"The good news is that Americans remain optimistic, with 58% forecasting that the economy will be in good shape a year from now," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Optimism is highest in big cities and lowest in rural areas."

With the nation's unemployment level at 10%, jobs are obviously a concern across the board, but the poll indicates a racial divide on the issue, with black Americans feeling they face a tougher job situation than whites. 54% of blacks questioned in the survey say that African-Americans don't have the same chance as whites to get jobs that they are qualified for. Less than 1 in 4 white respondents agreed.

"Although 54% blacks today don't think that they have the same employment opportunities as whites, that's actually down significantly from past polls," Holland says. "In the 1990s, two-thirds of blacks felt that way, and in the 1960s, three-quarters shared that view."

The Obama administration will face several major policy questions in 2010, with the deficit, unemployment, and new regulation of financial institutions chief among them. Worries about the deficit are growing, but a majority of Americans still say that economic recovery should be a higher priority than reducing the deficit.

"And when the deficit is pitted against unemployment, that number grows higher. 57% say that economic recovery should be a higher priority for the Obama administration than deficit reduction; three-quarters say that reducing unemployment should take precedence over the deficit," adds Holland.

As for new financial regulations, 45% say there is too little government regulation of the stock market and other financial institutions. Six in ten say that those financial institutions have too much influence over the Obama administration.

According to the government's final reading released Tuesday, the gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic activity, grew at an annual rate of only 2.2% in the three months ending in September. A month ago the estimate was growth of 2.8%, and the initial reading in October was more robust growth of 3.5%.

The latest report showed that consumer spending, which accounts for more than two thirds of the nation's economic activity, was much weaker than previously thought. Businesses also didn't do as much to build up inventories of goods as in the previous reading.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted December 16-20, with 1,160 adult Americans, including 259 African-Americans and 786 whites, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. To top of page

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