Americans Glum on Crisis, Hopeful on Obama: Poll

Americans remain downbeat about the economy, corporate America and the government's handling of the financial crisis, but optimistic about Barack Obama's ability to turn things around, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

The telephone survey of 1,009 adults, with a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, shows that six in 10 Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction and disapprove of President Bush's job performance. Seven in 10 disapprove of Washington's handling of the financial crisis.

Yet the survey shows Americans are investing extraordinary hope in the president-elect. Mr. Obama is viewed favorably by 67 percent of the public, and negatively by just 16 percent. By 38 percent-6 percent, Americans say their opinion of Mr. Obama has grown more positive since the election, and 57 percent express solidarity with his values. Solid majorities say Mr. Bush's successor is likely to bring real change, and express confidence that his personal characteristics prepare him for the presidency.

"People need to have hope," explained Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducts the NBC/WSJ poll with Democratic counterpart Peter Hart. "They want this guy to succeed because they are so concerned with the direction of the country."

"The goodwill that he has," adds Mr. Hart, "is amazing."

That goodwill includes positive assessments of Mr. Obama's appointments; 69 percent of the public says he has struck the right balance between new and experienced people. Some 80 percent say it's likely he will improve America's image around the world, and 73 percent say the same of his ability to get the economy back on track.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

The public's top priority for Mr. Obama's economic agenda: his proposed tax cuts for middle and lower-class Americans.

The public doesn't feel the same goodwill toward corporate America—by a long shot. At a time when the federal government is considering bailouts for the Big Three auto companies, Americans by 49 percent to 25 percent say they have a negative rather than positive view of General Motors. A 46 percent plurality would approve government aid to the automakers, while 42 percent disapprove.

Feelings are even more negative towards American Insurance Group and Fannie Mae. One exception: By 57 percent to 10 percent, Americans express a positive view toward Microsoft.