Economy, Gas, Partisanship and War Gang Up on Confidence in Government

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TWO KAHUNAS -- Ultimately, the big kahuna in U.S. politics long has been the economy, and as noted, more than half of Americans, 53 percent, say it's not yet begun to recover; 46 percent think recovery has begun. While that's not great, it's better than it's been: The number who see economic improvement has risen by 12 points since October.

People who think the economy is improving are 20 points more apt than those who don't to express optimism about the country's system of government. That suggests that further perceived economic improvement would do much to ease the public's long-running snit.

But there are two clear risks: One, the pain of gas prices. And two, simmering discontent with the war in Afghanistan. The irony for Obama would be to turn the corner on the economy, just as unhappiness with the war reaches full boil.

METHODOLOGY -- This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone March 10-13, 2011, among a random national sample of 1,005 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y, with sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

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