A year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers signaled the start of the economic crisis, Americans remain badly bruised, reporting widespread and continued financial woes, significant levels of personal stress and skepticism that lasting reforms are being put in place.
A remarkable 41 percent say that in the last year someone in their household has had their pay or work hours cut. Twenty-seven percent -- one in four -- say a layoff or the loss of a job has hit their home. The total with either a pay cut or job loss is 47 percent, nearly half the country.
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Sixty-five percent have been hurt financially; one in three, hurt "a great deal."
And it's a country still on tenterhooks. Fifty-three percent are concerned about a pay cut in the months ahead, and nearly as many, 46 percent, worry about a layoff hitting their household. Those levels of anxiety are unchanged since February, despite reports the recession may have bottomed out.
EFFECTS – One result is stress: A majority of Americans, 55 percent, say the current economic situation is a cause of stress in their lives, down a bit from 61 percent early last spring but still a large number. One in three call it "serious" stress.
That soars, naturally, among people who've had a job loss or pay cut in the household. In this group 72 percent report stress, 47 percent, "serious stress." And stress is about as high among those who are worried about a job loss or pay cut in the months ahead.
One of the reasons for stress cuts to the current health care debate. Among people who report a job loss or layoff in the past year, 26 percent -- one in four -- say they don't have health insurance coverage. Among those who report no job losses, far fewer lack coverage, 9 percent.
Another effect is disaffection at the political and policy levels. Just 49 percent of Americans express confidence the federal government is putting measures in place that will make another financial crisis less likely in the future; a mere 10 percent are "very" confident this is happening.
Given their own experience -- and again despite suggestions by economists that the bottom's arrived -- just 32 percent believe the economic stimulus program has improved the economy, and just one in 10 say it's helped "a great deal." Add in those who think the stimulus hasn't helped yet but will in the future, and positive assessments total a tepid 52 percent, no better now than in June, and lower than in April.
POLITICS – There are political consequences. Just 51 percent approve of the way President Obama's handling the economy, down from 60 percent a month after he took office; 46 percent now disapprove. And more "strongly" disapprove, 33 percent, than strongly approve, 28 percent.
Obama still leads the Republicans in Congress in trust to handle the economy but by a much-diminished 48-37 percent margin. That's contracted from 61-24 percent in April, which at the time was a record for an incumbent president over the opposition party in polls dating to 1991.