Poll: Hopes slip on leaders fixing economy

WASHINGTON -- Neither President Bush nor the two men vying to succeed him, John McCain and Barack Obama, has won the confidence of a majority of Americans that he and his advisers will be able to "fix" the nation's economic crisis, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll.

Two-thirds of those surveyed say their personal financial situation has been harmed by the mortgage meltdown and the stock market's fall, and even more expect to suffer long-term damage.

They are braced for more bad news: 73% call the economy "poor," a record high, and 84% predict it's going to get worse.

The findings include a series of highs and lows for a nation that could hardly be more glum. A record 91% say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States, the highest in the three decades Gallup has asked the question. Just 7%, a record low, say they are satisfied.

Bush, McCain and Obama all delivered comments Monday aimed at reassuring an anxious public.

Bush spoke at the White House after meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. McCain addressed a campaign rally in Virginia Beach.

In Toledo, Ohio, Obama endorsed a tax credit for job creation and a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures.

Three weeks before Election Day, Obama leads McCain 51%-44% among registered voters, just outside the survey's margin of error of +/—3 percentage points. The poll of 1,269 adults was taken Friday through Sunday, before the Dow's stunning 936-point rally Monday.

Despite his lead, 50% of Americans say they don't have confidence in Obama and his advisers to fix the economy; 44% do. Even so, that lukewarm endorsement is better than the 31%-63% rating for McCain.

The president scores lowest of all: 16% express confidence in him and his team, 80% no confidence. Bush's job-approval rating matches his low of 25% while his disapproval has risen to a new high, 71%.

Americans are split on whether the economy's problems represent a temporary financial downturn (47%) or a more permanent change in the economy that means it won't recover for a long time (49%).

Most believe that the government can have significant influence over fixing what's gone wrong. In the survey, 37% say the government can have "a great deal" of impact; 42% say it can have "a fair amount."

McCain was defiant about his standing in the polls. "The national media has written us off," he told the rally. "But they forgot to let you decide," he said, describing himself as "a fighter" and the underdog.

"We can't wait to help workers and families and communities who are struggling right now," Obama said. "We need to pass an economic rescue plan for the middle class … right now."

Using Gallup's traditional model of likely voters, Obama edges McCain 50%-46%.

Under an alternate model based solely on whether respondents say they plan to vote, his lead is 52%-45%.