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Big Majority Believes US Still in Recession: Poll

Public attitudes toward the economy have created ominous political problems for the Democratic Party and for Wall Street, according to the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

US Capitol Building with cash
US Capitol Building with cash

The survey shows that 76 percent of Americans believe that the US economy remains in recession; an even larger 81 percent describe themselves as dissatisfied with the economy.

That's a major reason why 56 percent of Americans say the country is still on the wrong track, notwithstanding recent positive economic news. Obama's own job approval rating rose slightly, to 50 percent, since the March survey.

That dissatisfaction has erased the edge in Congressional races that Democrats enjoyed a year ago. Now, voters split evenly on whether Democrats or Republicans should control Congress after this fall's mid-term elections. More encouraging for Republicans, their party enjoys a wide edge in enthusiasm about the election.

"We have a corrosive economy," said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducts the NBC/WSJ survey with his Democratic counterpart Peter Hart. "That corrosive economy is beginning to crack an incumbent party."

But that's little comfort for Wall Street and corporate America, which have also suffered fallout from the public. Fully 58 percent of Americans agreed with the statement, "Because of corporate corruption and broker practices, the stock market is no longer a fair and open way to invest one's money." Just 35 percent said the stock market remains fair and open.

And in the debate over new financial regulations, Americans by 55 percent to 38 percent said they worry more that Congress will do too little to protect consumers and rein in Wall Street than they worry that new rules will go too far.

That same disdain for corporate America was reflected in assessments of BP's performance in handling the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. By 50 percent to 37 percent, Americans say BP is not doing enough to clean up the spill.

At the same time, Americans have not turned against offshore oil drilling itself. By 53 percent to 41 percent, Americans say the economic benefits of offshore drilling make it still worthwhile despite environmental dangers.

On the volatile issue of immigration, two-thirds of Americans say they support the strict new Arizona immigration law; a slightly larger proportion of Hispanics voters oppose it. Those cross-currents explain why Congress is unlikely to act on the issue before mid-term elections.

One potential bright spot for Obama is that 55 percent of Americans say they'd be more likely to support a Congressional candidate who wants to give the new health care law a chance. Just 42 percent say they'd be more likely to support a candidate who wants to repeal the health care law.

The telephone survey of 1,000 adults was conducted May 6-10. It carries a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points.

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