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Americans see economy as struggling but stable, poll finds

  • Story Highlights
  • 42 percent questioned in poll say economy in very poor shape
  • But half feel that economy has stabilized
  • Report comes as number of first-time filers for employment insurance rises
  • 43 percent say Obama's programs have had positive effect
By Paul Steinhauser
CNN Deputy Political Director
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The number of Americans who think the country's economy is currently in very poor shape is on the rise, according to a new national poll. But the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Thursday also indicates that a growing number of Americans think the worst of the recession is over.

A third of Americans think the economy is still in a downturn, new poll results show.

A third of Americans think the economy is still in a downturn, new poll results show.

Forty-two percent of those questioned in the poll say they rate the economic conditions in the country today as very poor. That's an increase of 7 points since August. The figure had been dropping steadily since the spring.

According to the survey, 16 percent rate the current economic conditions as good, a drop of 5 points from August. That figure had been steadily rising since the spring.

But the poll also indicates that a third of Americans think the country's still in a downturn, a drop of 7 points from June. Half the people questioned say the economy's stabilized, an uptick of 2 points from June, with 17 percent feeling that the country is starting to recover, up 5 points from June.

"Americans don't like where the economy is, but they seem to be hopeful about the direction it is headed in," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "Two-thirds think the economy has stabilized or has started to recover. That doesn't mean they think it's in good shape now, but it might be in the foreseeable future."

The survey's release comes as the number of first-time filers for unemployment insurance rose last week, snapping two weeks of significant declines, according to a government report issued Thursday.

The latest Federal Reserve snapshot of regional economic conditions reports that the economy has shown signs of stabilizing or modestly improving in recent weeks, especially in the housing market and manufacturing activity.

"Reports of gains in economic activity generally outnumber declines," the Fed said Wednesday in the most recent edition of its Beige Book. "But virtually every reference to improvement was qualified as either small or scattered."

According to the survey, 43 percent think that President Obama's policies, such as the federal stimulus program, have had a positive impact on the economy. Another 13 percent say the president's plans aren't working yet but will make the economy better, and 42 percent say Obama's programs won't help at all.

"Skepticism about Obama's economic program is highest in rural areas and in the Midwest," Holland said. "That's where we may see some real battles for House seats next year."

The CNN Opinion Research Corp. Poll was conducted October 16-18, with 1,038 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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