Washington Three out of four Americans, including large numbers of Republicans, blame President Bush's economic policies for making the country worse off during the last eight years, according to a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll released Wednesday, reflecting a sharp increase in public pessimism during the last year.
Only 9 percent of respondents said the country's economic condition has become better off since Bush became president, compared with 75 percent who said conditions had worsened. Among Republicans, 42 percent said the country is worse off, while 26 percent said it is about the same, and only 22 percent said economic conditions had improved.
Phillip Thies, a registered Republican and clothing store owner in Cedar, Mich., who was one of those polled, said the president was doing an able job through the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but that "right after that, it was steadily, steadily downhill."
"There has been a lack of leadership and a lack of timeliness of leadership, of not being conscious of the magnitude of the problems," Thies said of Bush in a follow-up interview. "He's always a day late and a dollar short."
Lois Coleman, 84, said, "I'm not as well off as I was before he was president and that pertains to all my friends, too, everyone I know." Coleman, of Floyds Knobs, Ind., described herself as an independent.
The economic pessimism has deepened sharply in the last year, intensified by higher fuel prices, the poll found.
When the question was asked in March 2007, 24 percent of respondents said Bush's policies had improved the nation's economy, and 46 percent said they had made it worse.
The increased unhappiness is reflected in an all-time low in Bush's approval rating - just 23 percent now, compared with 34 percent in February.
"It is no surprise that Americans are feeling very pessimistic about the economy - with rising gas and oil prices and food prices affecting their pocketbooks," said Times polling director Susan Pinkus. "They don't see an end to the rise in price. ... Americans blame the president, along with the oil companies, for not having done enough to stem the tide of rising gas prices."
According to 70 percent of respondents, the rising cost of fuel had caused hardship for their families, and the pain appeared spread across all income groups: Seventy-nine percent of people with incomes of less than $40,000 a year said the higher prices were a hardship, but so did 55 percent of respondents with incomes above $100,000.